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Donovan Mitchell Showing Massive Defensive Improvements – Basketball Insiders

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Donovan Mitchell has always been one of the best shooting guards since he entered the NBA. His offensive prowess is undeniable, and he has proven to be one of the best scorers in the league. However, his time in Cleveland has unlocked a new facet to his game. Mitchell has developed into a reliable defender this year. Yes, you read that correctly. Cleveland as a unit is one of the top defensive teams in the league and it has helped Mitchell’s defensive presence. He is taking on-ball defensive responsibilities seriously and is not shying away from many challenges this year. The numbers back this sentiment up and it is another reason the Cavaliers are a contender in the Eastern Conference.

Donovan Mitchell Has Improved Defensively This Year

His Numbers

Not only has Mitchell held his own against some of the league’s best perimeter players, but he also possesses some impressive advanced defensive statistics. He is currently ninth in the NBA in defensive rating (107.1) and has a defensive box plus/minus rating of +1.5, a career-best in this regard. Some notable players Mitchell has held under 10 points when guarding this season include Khris Middleton, Jaylen Brown, Damian Lillard, and Klay Thompson.

He has even held his own against the likes of Dejounte Murray who has scored 14 points when guarded by Mitchell in three games and 15 matchup minutes. Playing alongside defensive juggernaut, Jarrett Allen, has seemingly unlocked Donovan Mitchell’s defensive potential. They have formed one of the more underappreciated duos in the league. It has paid dividends as the Cleveland Cavaliers are currently second place in the Eastern Conference with a win-loss record of 38-20 as of February 29th , 2024.

Donovan Mitchell’s Case for MVP

The MVP race is heating up, but Mitchell certainly has a case as a dark-horse candidate. He has not just improved defensively, but he is still shouldering the load as the primary scorer within Cleveland’s offensive scheme. Mitchell is also accustomed to being the primary ball-handler at times as point guard, Darius Garland, missed some time this regular season. He has a usage rate of 31.8 percent which ranks within the top-10 in the league in this category.

On the season, the All-Star shooting guard is averaging 28.0 points, 5.4 total rebounds, nearly 2.0 steals (1.8), and 6.2 assists per game while tallying an effective field goal percentage of 55.5 percent. These are numbers comparable to other MVP candidates. When one considers the team success of the Cavaliers along with his terrific individual play this season, Donovan Mitchell certainly has an argument to be in the thick of the MVP race.



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