Cavs’ Donovan Mitchell: ‘You’re Judged By Conference Finals And Finals’

Here’s something that’s not a surprise — Cavaliers star Donovan Mitchell is aiming high. But he explained how high, exactly, in an exclusive interview with outstanding NBA reporter Chris Fedor of Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA

“It definitely is something that fuels me,” Mitchell told Fedor of the postseason. “This is what I want to be. This is why I work hard. I take the scrutiny. I take the praise. But in order for me to be considered one of the best to play this game, I’ve got to do something when it matters most. Individual performances are great. But team success has to come with it. That’s where I’m at in my career.

“By any means necessary, we’ve got to get there. We’ve got to do it.”

Mitchell and the Cavs are the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference for the second straight season. They’ve had a fairly rocky run since the All-Star break in February, but Mitchell has been in and out of the lineup with knee issues (and a broken nose).

And no matter how you spin it, the Cavs are just one of four teams in the entire NBA that finished with a top-four playoff seed two straight seasons (the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and defending champion Denver Nuggets are the others).

But Mitchell reiterated it’s all about what happens next.

“Obviously, you’re judged by conference finals and finals. That’s my mindset. That’s kind of where I’m at and where my head is at,” Mitchell told Fedor. “First round, second round is cool. I’m taking it one round at a time. But my goal is to make the conference finals and get to the NBA Finals, you know what I mean? That’s what I’m judged on.”

Mitchell, 27, can sign an extension for up to four years and around $200 million this summer. He has a player option worth $37 million for the 2025-26 season and can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2025 if he declines that player option. 

For now, though, he’s focused on the Orlando Magic, the Cavs’ first-round opponent. Game 1 is Saturday in Cleveland. 

This time, the Cavs are fairly heavy favorites. Last year, the Cavs were run off the court in five games by the New York Knicks.

Personally, Mitchell told Fedor that he’s motivated by the fact he’s never been out of the second round — either with the Cavs or Utah Jazz before them

 “I think I’ve turned it eating at me into fuel,” he said. “I think what I mean by that is, if it eats at you, it consumes you, and then it puts a lot more pressure on you. “I think using it as fuel is kind of like, ‘All right, this is what you’re striving for.’ I think it’s really big how you talk to yourself in that regard. But I wouldn’t have told you that two years ago.”

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