Shaquille O’Neal on the idea that Donovan Mitchell is proving he can carry a team: ‘This is regular season’

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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal isn’t sold on the idea of Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell being able to carry a team.

The Cavs have gotten off to a hot start in the 2022-23 season, going 6-1 through their first seven games. Mitchell has been the driving force, especially since Darius Garland has played in just two games due to an eye injury.

During an episode of “The Big Podcast,” O’Neal admitted that he has questioned Mitchell’s ability to carry a team before. When his co-host Nischelle Turner noted how Mitchell has been carrying the Cavs, O’Neal pumped the brakes by claiming that the 26-year-old is only doing so in the regular season.

“This is regular season, boo boo,” O’Neal said. “Don’t get too excited, okay? Calm down. … Listen, anybody can shoot the ball every time and score a lot of points, but you gonna win? You gonna lead your team to the promised land?”

O’Neal may not have confidence in Mitchell to carry Cleveland come playoff time, but he’s done a fantastic job to start the 2022-23 season.

The Cavs gave up a lot to acquire Mitchell from the Utah Jazz this past offseason, but he has shown that they made a smart investment. The three-time All-Star is averaging 31.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game while shooting 48.1 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from beyond the arc.

Mitchell and Garland showed that they can be a dynamic duo in the backcourt in the team’s overtime win over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.

While O’Neal does have some merit to his argument since Mitchell has never brought a team to the conference finals in his career, one could argue that this Cavs roster is one of the best he’s been a part of.

The Eastern Conference is loaded with good teams in the 2022-23 season, but there’s no reason the Cavs can’t break into the top tier in the conference. Cleveland has already defeated last season’s Eastern Conference champions, the Celtics, twice this season.

With Garland finally back in the lineup, Mitchell could be even better in the coming games with defenses having to focus on guarding both players.

The Cavs and Mitchell will look to keep rolling on Friday when they take on the Detroit Pistons. On paper, Cleveland should be able to handle Cade Cunningham and company, and it will be fun for Cavs fans to see Garland and Mitchell mesh even more in the contest.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.