Count Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff among those who think star guard Donovan Mitchell didn’t get enough credit this past season.
Mitchell was named second-team All-NBA. Bickerstaff contends that Mitchell should have been first. Mitchell himself said that first.
“I think his on-the-court merit gives him that. It’s not me being biased,” Bickerstaff said, via Run It Back on FanDuel TV. “You look at what he did throughout the season and how it impacted winning. I think that’s the thing. There were like six or seven teams that won 50 games this season and we were one of them.”
Bickerstaff speaks the truth, as the Cavs finished 54-28 to finish second in the Central Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference. It was their best year of the post-LeBron James era and Mitchell was the biggest reason why.
“You look at a guy whose numbers increased from last year to this year,” Bickerstaff said of Mitchell. “His numbers weren’t empty numbers. The guy had a 71-point game (Jan. 2 vs. the Bulls). We were down 20 at half. And he figured out a way to kind of will us to victory.
“So it’s not like he was putting up empty numbers. He was putting up impactful numbers that led to winning at a high clip.”
Mitchell, 26, averaged a career-high 28.3 points on a career-high 48 percent shooting in 68 regular-season games in his first year with Cleveland. But the Cavs were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Knicks in five games. The series really wasn’t even close.
“I definitely agree with (Mitchell), I feel he should’ve been first team,” Bickerstaff said. “I know we all would’ve traded that in to be able to continue to play further on. But he definitely earned it through the regular season and proved that he was one of the top five players this year.”
For the record, All-NBA first-teamers were Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, 76ers center and league MVP Joel Embiid, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and Celtics forward Jayson Tatum.