Are the Cavaliers legitimate contenders? Star guard Donovan Mitchell said he sure thinks so, as he relayed in a story by Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated.
“At the end of the day, you have to experience it,” Mitchell said of the playoffs, via Mannix. “You have to feel it. You can’t really describe the playoffs until you’re there.”
Aside from Mitchell, the Cavs’ nucleus is short on playoff experience. Point guard Darius Garland, power forward Evan Mobley and small forward Isaac Okoro have never been. Center Jarrett Allen went once, as a member of the Nets, back in 2019.
But the Cavs (43-27) lead the league in defensive rating, and you know what they say about defense. It wins games — and even championships.
Mitchell admittedly heard the whispers that he would be a defensive liability after he came over in the trade from the Jazz. But along with becoming the top option offensively and averaging a career-high 27.6 points, he is putting in the work at the other end.
“We have guys who take pride in being a good defensive team,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said, via Mannix. “Donovan is one of them.”
As for offense, there has never been any discussion about Mitchell and Garland being a fit or who will shoot when.
“It wasn’t really my turn, your turn at any time of the year,” Garland said, via Mannix. “It was really just, ‘Let’s just work it out. Let’s just try to move the ball as much as we can and just figure it from there.’ That’s what it’s really been. Me and Don just trying to work off each other. Reading the defense, how they are playing both of us. Try to get our brains involved because they’re so powerful for us as well.”
As for the idea of the Cavs emerging from the East, Mitchell made it pretty clear what the Cavs are thinking.
“It’s tough going from the hunter last year to the hunted,” he said, via Mannix. “But you see the progression. That tells you the mindset is there. That tells you this team believes.”
- In case you missed it, the Cavs have signed guard Sam Merrill to a multiyear contract. Sources told Hoops Wire the deal is for three years — though the last two are likely non-guaranteed. We have the full post here.
- Allen (eye) is listed as out for Tuesday’s road game against the Hornets. Allen is considered day-to-day.
- Mitchell (finger) is also out against the Hornets. We have that full post here.
Column: Are the Cavs contenders? "I believe in these guys," @SpidaDMitchell told @SInow. With 43 wins, the NBA's best defense and an All-NBA guard to lead them, it's time to consider how far Cleveland can go https://t.co/SsgW8xTrBX
— Chris Mannix (@SIChrisMannix) March 14, 2023
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