It’s safe to say that this off-season has been dry for the NBA. After all the turmoil that went down in Utah, it took over a month and a half for us to learn that the team is running things back with its stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Also, the New York Knicks are always in rumors as fans anticipate the arrival of Donovan Mitchell. Well, unfortunately, that Dream didn’t come true for Knick fans. Mitchell did land in the Eastern Conference but it was in the land of Cleveland with the Cavaliers.
First, let’s acknowledge the great direction that the Cavaliers’ organization is going in. This isn’t the same franchise that was in a sinkhole during the years of LeBron James being in Miami. Instead, the team has done a fantastic job of rebuilding with top-tier talents. With that being said, the Cavs were one of the more surprising teams this past season with a 44-38 record. Evan Mobley was a Rookie of the Year candidate while Darius Garland was in the race for Most Improved Player as well. Alongside the two young stars, the Cavs got great production from Jarrett Allen, Ricky Rubio (before he was hurt), and a few others.
Now you add Donovan Mitchell into the mix. Mitchell is a player that can be misunderstood oftentimes. Of course, he had the early career success of knocking out the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round, a team that consisted of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony. Plus, Mitchell led the Utah Jazz to the best record in the NBA during the 2020-21 season. It’s safe to say after five seasons, his time in Utah should have been over with. Once the Jazz traded Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the writing was on the wall that it was time for a rebuild.
What Mitchell brings to the Cavaliers is another veteran star who can potentially become the number one option.
With Garland’s ability to be an elite scorer and playmaker, the two guards can become a scary backcourt. The one adjustment that Mitchell will likely have to make is playing more off the ball, especially with another great scorer next to him. Plus, over the last few years, Mitchell’s playmaking has been an improvement as well. If he can learn to connect with Mobley either in pick and roll or actions or in passing to the high post, that would be critical as well.
The pressure will be on Donovan Mitchell to help Cleveland become a playoff team. Last season, the team was only one win away from the postseason before ultimately losing to the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks in the play-in tournament. While the team was still young and inexperienced, many insiders knew that the Cavs had one piece that they were missing. Fast Forward to today, Donovan Mitchell can be the missing piece. Are the Cavs a championship contender? Of course not. But once again, this new and improved roster is a good step in the right direction.
My prediction is the Cleveland Cavaliers will finish as a top-five seed in the Eastern Conference. It may take them some time to build the chemistry alongside one another. Once they figure things out they’ll be off to the races. Keep in mind that the East is still a very competitive conference, to say the least. The Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, and others will continue to elevate their teams as championship contenders. The Cavaliers are not on that level yet but they will be able to compete with any team in their conference.
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