For his performance in January, Donovan Mitchell became just the second Cleveland Cavaliers player ever to be named NBA Player of the Month. The other being the seemingly immortal LeBron James.
Mitchell has been incredible for the Cavaliers this season, and he's led this red-hot group that should be in good shape in February to 15 wins in their last 18 games. Recent soft schedule aside, this Cavs team is playing tremendous ball, with Mitchell being at the forefront.
Thus far this season, Mitchell has had splits of 28.5 points, 6.3 assists and 5.5 rebounds per contest, all of which are on pace for career-bests. He and Jarrett Allen were setting the tone for the Cavaliers in an extended stretch without Darius Garland and Evan Mobley because of injuries, and role guys such as Dean Wade, Isaac Okoro and Sam Merrill stepped up big over the span as well.
Make no mistake, Mitchell has been one of the primary reasons for Cleveland's surge to near the top of the Eastern Conference, and with the All-Star Break on the horizon, the Cavs have gotten two top guns back in Mobley and Garland. That only makes them better off, particularly with a tough March ahead.
As it pertains to Mitchell, he continues to amaze with his all-around impact for Cleveland. In the Cavaliers' last win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, he had his 18th 40-point game with the Cavs, and he's not even two seasons into his Cleveland career.
Mitchell's driving, transition play, multifaceted shot-making and his seemingly ever-improving playmaking chops have all factored into Cleveland's success. Despite him not being an All-Star starter this go-round, it's safe to say he's been playing outstanding ball for the Wine and Gold, and his chemistry with his teammates keeps getting better and better.
His defense, though, continues to be impressive, too, and that shouldn't be overlooked.
Mitchell's defensive play for the Cavaliers also deserves flowers
Mitchell is not going to have the defensive workload of some other guys given the nature of what typically plays out for NBA perimeter stars with the kind of usage he has, but he has been making a difference in his role on the perimeter, and has shown great commitment there. That's seemingly been something that's carried forward from last season for him, too.
What's continually popped from Mitchell has been his team defense and rotational efforts. It's not as if Mitchell never gets beat, or is just locking people up all the time, but he's been so on-point as a rotator to get contests to shooters, and his anticipation to blow up passing lanes has helped the Cavs be more disruptive and accumulate more run-outs.
Mitchell has gobbled up opposing skip feeds regularly, and he's blown up plays one, or on occasion, sometimes two passes away, which has taken shots away from opponents and generate momentum going the other way for Cleveland.
On the year, Mitchell has had a career-best 1.9 steals per contest, and he's sixth in the NBA in total steals with 74. Along with the steal splits, he's had 3.1 deflections per game this season, which has also been sixth leaguewide.
Mitchell does take calculated gambles at times; however, his anticipation on the weak side has enabled him to have timely run-outs in games, and that's either led to quick buckets for him, or for hustling teammates running the floor.
In terms of other areas where Mitchell's given Cleveland a defensive boost has been his rebounding help, where his timing, grit and intuition have led to him being in the right spots to land some key contested boards, which are crucial. Plus, while he's not going to be Mobley in this aspect, Mitchell's 6-foot-10 wingspan has been a factor in plenty of his shot contests to shooters for Cleveland, which is not something that should not discounted, either.
Naturally, Mitchell's offensive production is going to generate the buzz surrounding him, but even with that expectation, his defensive commitment and multiple-effort plays deserve their flowers, too. And guys definitely feed off that.