Donovan Mitchell has been playing the best basketball of his career so far after joining the Cleveland Cavaliers. He has been so good that he would be on the short list of contenders for early-season MVP, if such a thing existed. Mitchell has been on fire for the Cavs, who are off to a red-hot 8-2 start. Let’s look at four reasons Cavs star Donovan Mitchell is a way-too-early NBA MVP candidate.
4. Stepping up when needed
Donovan Mitchell has so far exceeded the Cavaliers’ expectations. This is especially in the absence of star point guard Darius Garland, who is still recovering from an eye injury.
Through 10 games, Mitchell is averaging 31.2 points, 6.0 assists, 4.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 4.1 triples per contest. Take note that, outside of boards, those are all career highs. That’s pretty significant for a guy who is a three-time All-Star.
The Cavaliers have already seen how influential Mitchell can be this early the season. Again, this has been heightened by the fact that, until November 2nd, Garland was out for all but 13 minutes after being poked in the eye in Cleveland’s home opener. To underscored Mitchell’s dominance, he has scored 30+ points in all but two of the Cavaliers’ games so far. In fact, he scored 30+ in each of the team’s first three games. That made him the only player in team history to accomplish that feat.
Sure, his numbers will dip slightly with Garland back, but there’s no doubting that Mitchell has stepped up big time when needed.
3. Elite offensive player
What makes Donovan Mitchell so good is the discipline and precision he has in making things happen. This is especially apparent when he attacks off the dribble. That has surely been the most unstoppable aspects of his game.
Keep the following in mind. So far this season, 75.4 percent of Mitchell’s drives have resulted in a scoring chance (an assist, a shot attempt, or a trip to the free-throw line). He has also turned the ball over only once in 65 total drives. Don’t forget that he’s also now shooting a career-high 50.5 percent from the field. That includes another career-high — 45.1 percent from beyond the arc. Mitchell’s aggressiveness has been flat out instrumental in the Cavs’ early success.
Donovan Mitchell was hitting shots, his underrated value is the ability to help create them. He's improved at getting downhill, controlling his pace and reading defenses. pic.twitter.com/yI9r91InMR
— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) October 31, 2022
What’s more amazing is that even at a position (shooting guard) that is generally defined by high-level scoring, Mitchell’s tremendous offensive punch sticks out. We doubt he can hold off guys like Booker, Harden or even Beal for the entire 82-game season, but for now, Mitchell’s numbers are hard to ignore.
To wit, he is currently top four in scoring, top two in three-pointers made per game, and top eleven in assists. He’s elite as elite can be.
2. All-NBA Level play
As we’ve already mentioned, Donovan Mitchell is currently the best shooting guard on the planet. He has just exploded into the scene in Cleveland early this season. His per-game stats are crazy, video game figures. Yes, let’s temper this because those are bound to fall when Garland comes back, but in the meantime, the Cavs must be extremely pleased with Mitchell’s performance.
In terms of analytics, Mitchell currently carries a 51.2 ESPN rating. That’s good enough for top five behind Luka, Giannis, SGA, and Ja. Meanwhile, Mitchell also currently has a PER of 28.02. That’s tops among all shooting guards and top nine overall.
Translation? Mitchell is not just playing at an All-Star level. He is playing at an All-NBA level.
1. Donovan Mitchell is the best player on one of the best teams
The content and context behind the figures, though, is the stronger case for Mitchell. Remember that he came into the 2022 off-season as Utah’s greatest scorer. When Mitchell moved to Cleveland, fans expected him to be kind of a No. 2 behind Garland. With Garland out, though, Mitchell has been the offensive focal point of a Cavaliers club that is aiming to return to the playoffs.
Many were concerned about Mitchell’s defense, but he has been solid thus far. In addition, his development as a three-level scorer and shot creator has been better than expected. Not surprisingly, Mitchell has reminded a lot of pundits of D-Wade in that he can finish at will, hit the trey, distribute, rebound, and even defend at a respectable level.
Suffice to say that Mitchell has been the best player in one of the best teams early this season. The Cavaliers are off to a 8-2 start thanks in no small part to his efforts. He leads the team in scoring, assists, three-pointers made, and PER. He also second on the team in steals.
Take note as well that right now, the Cavs are second in the league in three-point shooting (39.9 percent), top seven in scoring (116.3), and number one in plus-minus (+10.9 per game). This team is one of the best two-way teams so far. It’s much too early to make any grand claims, but after finishing 20th in the league on offense last season, this solid start on that end of the floor is like a breath of fresh air.