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How Donovan Mitchell stepped into a leadership role early in his Cavaliers tenure

DETROIT — Donovan Mitchell has always been a dynamic scorer — for his size, for his position, for his pedigree.

And while his experience was a necessary addition to a young and surprising Cleveland Cavaliers team, he took some self-evaluation in the time between last season ending in Utah and his arrival in the Eastern Conference.

The question, “How can I be better?” has been asked and answered as Mitchell has gotten off to a hot start in his first 19 games.

“I wanted to be a better defender,” Mitchell told Yahoo Sports recently. “Outside of that, I know what I can do on the offensive end. Being a better defensive player.”

He’s still bringing it on offense, playing remarkably efficient despite the adjustment to new surroundings. Mitchell’s averaging nearly 29 points on 48% shooting, and along with Stephen Curry, he’s the only other high-volume scorer (25 ppg or better) with 48-40-85 splits, according to Stathead.

Now, to the defense. After years of playing alongside Rudy Gobert, a vortex in the paint, Mitchell has two high-level defenders in the interior with Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley.

He’s vocal on defense and most of all, he’s putting forth the effort to keep things on a string. The 13-8 Cavaliers are fourth in defensive rating and third in points per game against.

Mitchell is listed at 6-foot-1, so there’s only so much he can do against high-level wings. But he’s enormously athletic and stocky, which means activity counts for a lot — and can do wonders when a team already has an established defensive culture.

“Defensively, he talks and communicates, and anticipates plays are happening in front of him,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff told Yahoo Sports. “So there’s more to him than, you know, just the easy offense stuff that you see.”

Bickerstaff called around the league, just to do his own intel on Mitchell when the Cavaliers acquired him weeks before training camp, as is custom for this very small ecosystem. But Bickerstaff admitted there’s nothing like bringing a guy into your own building.

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“Understanding what type of person he is, what kind of…


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Publish date : 2022-11-29 21:41:33

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2022-11-30

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