The new year has been a mixed bag for the Cleveland Cavaliers so far. Through 12 games, Cleveland is 7-5, a good-not-great record that includes nice wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and New Orleans Pelicans but also features frustrating losses to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz.
And if you ask Donovan Mitchell, another one of those frustrating losses came on Tuesday night. Moments before the clock ran out on the Cavs’ 105-103 defeat to the New York Knicks, Mitchell attempted a dunk that was swatted away by Isaiah Hartenstein.
Mitchell stayed on the ground for a moment before resuming play. Later on, once the game was over, Mitchell could be seen visibly upset heading to the locker room and punching an empty seat.
Afterward, he explained his anger, noting his frustration stemmed from a lack of execution down the stretch.
“I am just upset that it — I felt good enough to come back, and for that to be the last five seconds of the game really pisses me off,” Mitchell said, per Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. “But I fumbled the game away for the group, and that’s on me. Poor execution on my part down the stretch. They drew up perfect plays, and I just didn’t execute them. But yeah, it’s definitely both (frustration about the injury and play), but more so (the injury). I’m praying that I’m all right.”
Nonetheless, Mitchell flirted with a triple-double against the Knicks, notching 24 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 8.0 assists.
Mobley Continues to Fluster Cavs Fans
Mitchell isn’t the only player who missed a shot late. Evan Mobley, Cleveland’s top pick in last year’s draft, missed a jumper to tie the game on Cleveland’s final possession.
Mobley hasn’t quite taken the year-two leap many had hoped after a stellar rookie campaign. He’s averaging the same number of points (15.0) per game as last season, with a similar defensive output (his defensive box plus/minus is 1.6, a shade up from last season’s 1.5).
Those numbers aren’t bad by any means. But if last season was supposed to be an appetizer of what Mobley can do, this year was supposed to at least show signs of the main course.
Recently, Mobley earned the ire of ex-player-turned-broadcaster Kendrick Perkins.
“We’ve been waiting on Evan Mobley to take that leap like in the conversation with elite bigs. High expectations. I’m talking about a guy that’s 18, 20 and 10. At least flirting around with DeAndre Ayton-type numbers,” Perkins said on NBA Today.
“If he doesn’t take that next leap, and he doesn’t start to grow in areas that we expect him to grow in, then, to be honest, we’re going to be wasting time watching this dynamic backcourt of Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland,” Perkins said. “He is the key. What was he, the second or third pick in the draft? And one could argue that he should have been the first pick?
“He hasn’t lived up to it this season. They need more out of him, like 12 and eight they getting.”
It’s not an anomaly. Across the league, several second-years have scuffled, including reigning Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes. Mobley still has plenty of time to grow into his Tim Duncan/Kevin Garnett-sized shoes.
Cavaliers Still Eyeing Upgrades, May Lose Okoro
As the trade deadline rolls near, the Cavaliers are still eyeing upgrades on the wing in what may be the worst-kept secret in the league.
The only problem? Cleveland isn’t flush with draft capital after swinging big for Donovan Mitchell over the summer.
But one Eastern Conference GM believes Cleveland has one decent asset left: Isaac Okoro.