In the Cleveland Cavaliers' past few games leading into their game at the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, the group hadn't had Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell missed time because of a Non-COVID illness, and with Cleveland without Darius Garland and Evan Mobley already, that was a lot of production missing. Mitchell could be back on Friday versus the Milwaukee Bucks; one will have to see as it pertains to his conditioning.
Fortunately for the Cavaliers, they were able to land two victories without Mitchell involved prior to that Dallas game, won that in comeback fashion, and guys such as Craig Porter Jr., Isaac Okoro, Jarrett Allen and Dean Wade made things happen. Prior to him sustaining a wrist sprain, Sam Merrill was making quite a splash in recent games as a bench sharpshooter as well, and when he is back from a wrist sprain, he's a player who can give Cleveland a perimeter boost in spurts it seems.
All of that said, regardless of the injuries to others, the Cavs are simply more potent when Mitchell is available, given his wide-ranging offensive skill set. He's had 27.7 points per contest this season, and his elite three-level scoring and combo guard abilities make him one of the league's top players.
In his absence, the Cavaliers hadn't had one of the NBA's best open floor players in their past handful games as well, and it was all the more apparent how much Mitchell means in that aspect. The Cavaliers have found ways to score with their ball and man movement, but Mitchell's fastbreak prowess will be great to have again when he returns.
Mitchell is one of the game's best transition players, and his presence there can give this Cavaliers squad a jolt when he's back.
Mitchell is such a lethal offensive weapon, and for his efforts last season, he was named All-NBA Second Team. He's had his share of production this season as well when he's been in there, as evidenced by his 27.7 points and 5.5 assists per contest.
When Mitchell is back in the fold for the Cavaliers, it could enable them to get up and down a bit more as a group also, and in terms of his skill set in the open floor, Mitchell has been one of the NBA's top transition scorers in 2023-24. He's second in fastbreak points per game this season at 5.2, per NBA.com's miscellaneous player data.
Mitchell's explosiveness, end-to-end speed and ability to absorb contact to finish all make him so tough to handle in the open floor, and if his conditioning is there, he could make a difference when he's back, hopefully soon, on the break for Cleveland. He's a disruptor in passing lanes defensively off the ball as well, and that can be a boost for the Wine and Gold's transition abilities, which is also something to keep in mind when he's back out there.
The Cavs have been able to get downhill at points in recent games even without Mitchell, thanks some to defensive disruption, but with him out there, that can lead to more easy buckets in the open floor going end-to-end.
Mitchell is so difficult to stop in those scenarios, and off of that, he does a nice job of finding trailing shooters or guys such as Max Strus running to the corners in those instances. Cutters like Isaac Okoro can be targets for Mitchell in those sequences, too.
Hopefully, the Cavs can have Mitchell back in the fold tonight against the Bucks, who are currently the second seed in the Eastern Conference. But, to the Wine and Gold's credit, they seem to finding their stride as a group, even shorthanded. And when they get their top gun in Mitchell back, this team can definitely hit the gas, given the resolve this group has shown in recent weeks.