When the Cleveland Cavaliers were ousted by the New York Knicks in five games during the opening round of the NBA playoffs, many saw it as a firm wake-up call. Big changes were needed. Despite some offseason maneuvering, the Cavs (13-12) are continuing to disappoint in the early stages of the 2023-24 season. But now, the real descent is expected to begin.

Fans are reeling after a pair of injuries sustained by two core players. Darius Garland and Evan Mobley will both miss several weeks after undergoing jaw and knee surgery, respectively. There is no way to spin this tsunami of calamities. It will be incredibly difficult to remain in the top 10 of the Eastern Conference standings without these young, impactful players.

Donovan Mitchell is not interested in self-pity, though. He knows there is only one way to survive these major absences for an extended stretch.

It’s next man, or men, up for Cavs after injuries

Max Strus and Georges Niang, among others, will have to step up for Cavs

“For us as a group, we got to find a way to just -together. That’s the biggest thing. We got to do this together,” the All-Star guard told Cavs reporter Serena Winters. “I’m not going to make it seem like we’re down in the dumps…we got guys now that are ready to go and step up and that’s why we made the moves we made…We’ve got to do it by committee.”

Mitchell listed Caris LeVert, Max Strus, Isaac Okoro, Georges Niang, Dean Wade and Craig Porter Jr. as guys who will be asked to “step up” while Garland and Mobley recover. Cleveland president of basketball operations Koby Altman made roster depth a top priority, so perhaps Spida’s pleas will be answered.

Still, losing a former All-Star and an All-NBA First-Team Defensive selection almost within a week of one another is a daunting adjustment for any franchise to make. Donovan Mitchell has dipped a little as a shooter (45.5 percent, 34.5 from 3-point range), but he is averaging five assists and almost six rebounds per game this season. He has the ability and drive to put the Cavs on his back.

But that will not translate to the best version of Cavaliers basketball. A collective effort is essential if Cleveland is going to stay afloat in the coming weeks and eventually fulfill their ample potential. The next-man-up philosophy will be in full effect Saturday, when the Atlanta Hawks come into Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.