There is no question that Donovan Mitchell is one of the best guards in the NBA. Mitchell, in addition to being an explosive three-level scorer, also contributes to winning at a high level, as he has not missed the playoffs yet since entering the league in 2017. But with the Cleveland Cavaliers fresh off a humbling first-round exit at the hands of the New York Knicks, Mitchell may have to work on a part of his game that could serve to elevate his impact even further.
Per Richard Jefferson, a man who won a championship with the Cavs in 2016 as a high level role player, Mitchell’s goal in 2023 and beyond must be to improve his playmaking to the point of making those around him better. That includes assisting in Evan Mobley’s leap from the periphery of the All-Star conversation to the heart of it.
“The only next step that Donovan can take — ’cause I think his defense has improved — I think less of a volume shooter, more of a game manager and making people around him better, right?” Jefferson said on the Road Trippin’ podcast with RJ and Channing, via Cavaliers Nation. “Making Evan Mobley, like, ‘I want to make you an All-Star. How do I make Evan Mobley an All-Star?’”
In the playoffs, Donovan Mitchell has had a history of playing hero ball. At heart, he’s more of a chucker than a passer. But as he’s learned over the past few postseason runs, that may not be the most conducive playstyle to success. And Richard Jefferson knows this. Playing with LeBron James, Tim Duncan, and Jason Kidd has taught him what it truly means to elevate the team into more than the sum of its parts.
“Donovan’s gotta make people around him better. He’s gotta nurture and elevate, no different than [Michael] Jordan elevated people, Tim Duncan, LeBron [James], the great ones,” Jefferson added.
Given how dangerous Donovan Mitchell is as an offensive initiator, the Cavs could certainly benefit from a more unselfish version of Spida. The tricky part, however, will be navigating the balancing act between making others better and not straying too far away from what makes him a special player in the first place. But that’s not a challenge Mitchell can’t overcome.