When the Cleveland Cavaliers managed to acquire Donovan Mitchell via trade in the 2022 NBA offseason, fans knew that the team had just acquired a star guard.
What no one could have predicted, however, was that the Cavs were going to get a player that has looked like a serious MVP candidate as the season nears its midway point.
Mitchell has been transcendent for the Cavs so far in his first season with the team, and that fact was accentuated in a game last Monday when he dropped 71 points in an overtime win.
Since that outpouring, many have commented on the impressive level of play that Mitchell has displayed.
One such message recently came from Cavs assistant coach Luke Walton. Walton was lucky enough to play alongside late Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant during his playing career. Earlier in his coaching career, he helped coach Stephen Curry on the Golden State Warriors.
It was those two NBA icons that Walton brought up when talking about the scoring binge that Mitchell just experienced.
“The cool part is to see great players get into the zone at that level,” he told Cleveland.com. “If I ever got into the zone as a player, I would probably end up with like 16 points and seven assists. Great players will go through spurts like that. It’s just nearly impossible to maintain it for as long as Donovan did. The only players I’ve been with that have been able to maintain it for that long are Kobe and Steph. Now Donovan. You could see it in his eyes. Like he was in a trance and never came out of it until the very end of the game. It was awesome.”
Walton was present when Bryant dropped 81 points in a game back in 2006. As for Curry, his career-high scoring total in a single game is 62. He has scored at least 50 points 11 times in his career.
For Mitchell to even be mentioned in the same breath as Curry and Bryant is a really strong indication of just how impressive he has been this season. He’s been considered a star for the vast majority of his career, but it seems apparent that he may now be nearing the superstar category.
So far this season, Mitchell is averaging 29.0 points, 4.9 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game. He is shooting a blistering 48.7 percent from the field and 40.7 percent from deep.
Though Mitchell will surely cherish the 71-point performance that he rang in the new year with, his primarily goals for this season are likely more team-oriented. The Cavs are just two games back from the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, and they should be a very real threat come playoff time.
If Mitchell were able to bring a championship to his team this season or in the near future, it would offer him yet another similarity to Bryant, Curry and the other NBA legends that have played in the league over the years.