Mitchell became the first player in Cavaliers history to record three-straight 30+ point games.

The Cleveland Cavaliers knew what they were getting when they pulled off the blockbuster trade to land All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell back in September. He’s a prolific scorer, an athletic finisher and one of a handful of guys in the league who can go and get you 40 points in a playoff game. Even though the Cavaliers knew Mitchell’s resume before he joined the team, nothing compares to actually coaching and playing alongside him.

“You see all the dynamic things he does on the floor, but until you coach him and you’re with him everyday, you don’t really know him,”

“And just getting to know him as a person and his character, and how he is as a teammate, you could not ask for anything more. When you’re capable of playing at the level that he’s capable of, and you’re still willing to embrace your teammates at the level that he does, that is extremely rare and unique. We are truly lucky to have him with us.”

Cavaliers coach JB Bickerstaff said after a win in Chicago.

Through the first three games of the season, the Cavaliers are already experiencing just how impactful Mitchell can be, which has been elevated by the fact that Darius Garland has been sidelined for all but 13 minutes after getting poked in the eye in Cleveland’s home opener. In the first three games of the season, Mitchell has scored 30+ points in each contest, making him the first player in Cavaliers history to put up that many points in each of the first three games.

Behind Mitchell’s production, the Cavaliers are out to a 2-1 start, and even more impressive, they rank fifth in the league in both offense and defense. It’s certainly too small a sample size to make any grand proclamations about, but after ranking 20th in the league on offense a season ago, this strong start on that end of the floor is like a breath of fresh air. Especially as all this is happening without Garland, who has been sidelined the last two games after getting poked in the eye in Cleveland’s season opener. 

With Garland sidelined, Mitchell is showing why Cleveland traded for him in the first place. A great example of that came in Cleveland’s first win of the season against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday. Mitchell showed the range of his capabilities in the 128-98 blowout, which was perfectly highlighted at the start of the second quarter.

With the Bulls cutting the Cavaliers’ lead to just six points in the opening seconds of the second quarter, Mitchell went on a tear. The first sequence involved him draining a 3-pointer, then immediately intercepting a pass which led to an assist off of Issac Okoro’s transition dunk.

Immediately after that, Mitchell grabbed a defensive board on the other end and delivered a perfectly placed bounce pass in between two Bulls defenders to Evan Mobley in transition for a dunk of his own.

The whole sequence took about 90 seconds for Mitchell to take control of the game, putting the Cavaliers back up by 13 points and forcing the Bulls to call a timeout. By the end of the win, Mitchell finished with 32 points, eight assists and nine rebounds. He followed that up the very next night by putting up 37 points, five rebounds and four assists in an overtime win over the Washington Wizards.

“It’s definitely been impressive, especially in these first two games to see what he’s been able to do,” 

“I don’t know if that’s the right word or doing it justice, but he’s so much more than meets the eye. …If he can continue to do that he just elevates us in the right way across the board.” 

Kevin Love said after the win in Chicago.

Mitchell’s production as a scorer, facilitator and leader is even more noteworthy with Garland sidelined. If this were last season, the Cavaliers would’ve fallen apart without Garland on the floor, and that’s putting it lightly. When Garland was on the court, Cleveland scored 9.1 points per 100 possessions more than when he sat, which ranked in the 96th percentile in the league, per Cleaning the Glass. 

Even more drastic, the Cavs played like a 58-win team when Garland was on the floor last season, compared to a 24-win team when he was on the bench. But with Mitchell in tow, Cleveland has another ballhandler who can generate offense by himself, while also putting his teammates in a position to succeed. That allows Bickerstaff to stagger Mitchell and Garland in certain lineups so that there isn’t too much of a falloff on offense when one of them sits. 

It’s still unclear when Garland will suit up next for the Cavaliers, as Bickerstaff said Tuesday afternoon he doesn’t anticipate the All-Star guard will play in Cleveland’s game against the Orlando Magic Wednesday night. But whenever he returns, the Cavaliers will have an even more dynamic offense than the one that currently ranks first in 3-point percentage (44.3 percent) and third in field goal percentage (49.2 percent). The possibility of Cleveland being even better than that when Garland returns should be a scary thought for the rest of the league.

Source:  Jasmyn Wimbish

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