The Cleveland Cavaliers’ trade for Donovan Mitchell last year helped cement the nascent Cavs as a legitimate playoff team with a dark-horse shot at winning the championship if everything breaks right. Mitchell came in and became the lead scorer the team needed to reach their next level of progression. But for the Cavs to be more than playoff fodder for teams that belong in the very first tier of title contention, former Cav Richard Jefferson believes that Spida has to take an even bigger leap.
Speaking on the Road Trippin’ podcast with Channing and RJ, Jefferson said that Mitchell must do everything in his power to prevent himself from being the next Damian Lillard — a dominant regular season performer who has fallen short in the playoffs time and time again.
“I think that [the Cavs] are definitely a conference finalist contender. But I think Donovan [Mitchell] has to raise his game. He’s got to make sure, I say this respectfully, that he doesn’t turn into Damian Lillard,” Jefferson said.
"I think that [the Cavs] are definitely a conference finalist contender. But I think Donovan [Mitchell] has to raise his game. He's got to make sure, I say this respectfully, that he doesn't turn into Damian Lillard."
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) August 8, 2023
Having a career akin to that of Damian Lillard is far from the worst thing in the world for Donovan Mitchell. But for Mitchell to achieve his ultimate goal of being an NBA champion, he will have to improve the nuances of his game, beginning with his playmaking.
He’s averaging 4.5 assists per game in his career thus far, which is not a bad number by any means. However, given how much Mitchell handles the rock, there’s certainly room for improvement in that regard, even if Darius Garland is the Cavs’ lead ballhandler and primary floor general. At his core, Mitchell is a shoot-first, pass-second player, and throughout his career with both the Cavs and the Utah Jazz, Spida tends to resort to hero ball when adversity hits hard.
Thus, for the Cavs to avenge their first-round series defeat to the New York Knicks in the 2023 NBA playoffs, Mitchell will have to be a more complete player. And with Mitchell being just 26 years old, it’s certainly not late for him to add even more weapons to his already deep bag of tricks.