Richard Jefferson says final step for Donovan Mitchell is turning Evan Mobley into All-Star and making teammates better

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Richard Jefferson believes that if Donovan Mitchell wants to take the next step, the Cleveland Cavaliers star needs to make sure his teammates become exceptional players as well.

“Donovan’s gotta make people around him better,” Jefferson said. “He’s gotta nurture and elevate, no different than [Michael] Jordan elevated people, Tim Duncan, LeBron [James], the great ones…the only next step that Donovan can take — ’cause I think his defense has improved — I think less of a volume shooter, more of a game manager and making people around him better, right?

“Making Evan Mobley, like, ‘I want to make you an All-Star. How do I make Evan Mobley an All-Star?’ … That’s the mental thing that the next great players do.”

Last season, Mitchell, in his first year with the Cavs, established himself among the league’s elite by earning an All-NBA Second Team selection that the 26-year-old felt should have been a First Team honor. Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff ranked his marquee player among the top five in the league for the 2022-23 campaign after he led the Cavs to their first playoff appearance since 2018.

Darius Garland, Mitchell’s backcourt mate, is a fantastic player himself but certainly has room to grow and learn through Mitchell. The former Cavs lottery pick is a one-time All-Star but could ultimately earn many more accolades.

The 23-year-old recently praised the moves the organization has made this offseason, and he is looking to build on a season where he averaged 21.6 points and 7.8 assists per game. It was his first time with Mitchell as a teammate, and the statistics were similar to those of his All-Star campaign when he averaged 21.7 points and 8.6 assists per game in the 2021-22 season.

Mobley definitely seems to be on the verge of All-Star status as well, with the Cavs expecting a big leap from him in his third NBA season. Already an established defensive stalwart who is among the betting favorites to win Defensive Player of the Year this season, Mobley is a candidate to contribute more on offense after he averaged 15.0 and 16.2 points per game in his first two campaigns, respectively.

Jefferson, a former Cavaliers player and current NBA analyst for ESPN, has a point about the impacts of Jordan and James on their teammates. Mitchell can claim to have made progress in that area after being traded by the Utah Jazz and helping the Cavs improve from 44 to 51 wins while earning a playoff bid last season.

Unfortunately, rumors of the guard eventually leaving Cleveland won’t go away. But along with 25-year-old Jarrett Allen, the Cavs have a solid young core that Mitchell can influence and improve, so perhaps building something together will be the path he ultimately stays on.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. One of his favorite sports memories is the Cavaliers-Nets playoff series from 1993.