Donovan Mitchell and the Cleveland Cavaliers accomplished a lot this season, as the newcomer led the organization to a 51-win regular season and its first playoff bid in years. There was no shortage of regular season success.
Unfortunately, any dreams of playoff success are going to have to wait another year. The Cavs were eliminated from the postseason by the New York Knicks on Wednesday, wrapping up a series that only lasted five games.
If Cavs fans learned anything about Mitchell this season, it’s that he expects a lot from himself, so it’s no surprise that he was hard on himself after the loss.
“We did a lot of special things this year but for it to end this way, it doesn’t feel right,” Mitchell said. “For me personally, I don’t feel like I was the player I needed to be for this group. That’s what’s going to keep me up at night. I’ve done it all year. I just didn’t deliver like I expected myself to, like my teammates and everybody expects me to. I take that upon myself. I’ve got to be better.”
Mitchell’s 2023 postseason certainly wasn’t all bad. In the end, he averaged 23.2 points, 7.2 assists and 5.0 rebounds per contest across five games.
But he was inconsistent on a game-to-game basis, and he really struggled from an efficiency standpoint when the series started to slip away. Over the final three games, all of which the Knicks won, Mitchell shot just 39.7 percent from the field and 20.8 percent from deep.
The good news for Cavs fans is that Mitchell’s iffy playoff showing doesn’t seem likely to become a trend. The 26-year-old has a solid track record in the postseason and will hopefully remind NBA fans of that in the 2024 playoffs.
Across 44 career games in the playoffs, Mitchell owns averages of 27.8 points, 5.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game.
In some ways, Cleveland’s first-round disappointment against New York may have been a blessing in disguise. The series exposed some of the Cavs’ major flaws, leaving the team virtually no choice but to address those issues this summer. Had the team gone on a deep run, it probably would’ve been easier to overlook some of the imperfections.
Meanwhile, it’s a safe bet that Mitchell and his Cavs teammates will have no shortage of motivation going into the 2023-24 season.
When Cleveland narrowly missed the playoffs in the 2021-22 season, the group became motivated to check that box this season. It did so, and now, the team has even bigger goals in mind for the future.