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Cleveland Cavaliers Sign Two New Players, Donovan Mitchell Talks Need To Improve Defensive Game

Cavaliers Sign Auburn Product Sharife Cooper To Training Camp Pact

The Cleveland Cavaliers have added more depth, signing a former 2021 second-round pick to a training camp deal.

According to a report from Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, the Cavaliers have signed Sharife Cooper to a training camp contract. Cooper spent most of the 2021-22 season with the Hawks affiliate, the College Park Skyhawks, of the NBA G League.

The Newark, New Jersey native was drafted in the second round (48th overall) by the Hawks in 2021. He suited in 13 games for the Hawks last season, averaging 0.5 points and 0.4 rebounds per game (three minutes on average per game).

For the Skyhawks, Cooper averaged 17.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game in 22 total game appearances. Atlanta waived the former Auburn standout from their roster back in July.

The state of Ohio is slated to launch sports betting on Jan. 1, 2023, allowing Cavaliers fans to place wagers on their basketball team. Ohio sports betting will include DraftKings Ohio, which is expected to hand out a risk-free wager to new customers upon signing up.

Cleveland’s NBA Championship odds have improved since trading for former Utah Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell. DraftKings has them at +3000 to win the 2023 NBA title, and only the Milwaukee Bucks (-240) have better Central Division odds than Cleveland (+275).

Cavs Sign 2021 NBA Champion Mamadi Diakite

Cooper isn’t the only Cavaliers player that was added to the roster this week.

The team has also signed former Milwaukee Buck and Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Mamadi Diakite, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

Diakite, who turns 26 in January, signed with Milwaukee in 2020 after going undrafted. The Virginia product. He won an NBA championship with the Bucks in his rookie year. Diakite appeared in 14 games and averaged 3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.

The Bucks waived Diakite last October, and he wound up signing with the Thunder in January. Diakite appeared in 13 games and averaged 4.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.

Donovan Mitchell Admits He Must Improve His Defense

Playing alongside Rudy Gobert in Utah meant that Donovan Mitchell could simply focus on scoring, but he acknowledges that his defense must improve in “The Land.”

Mitchell was the heart-and-soul of Utah’s offense, while Gobert served as the engine for the defensively-sound Jazz under head coach Quin Snyder. Gobert won the 2018, 2019 and 2021 Defensive Player of the Year awards, and he’s earned NBA All-Defensive First Team selections in each of the last six years.

Per Kelsey Russo of The Athletic, Mitchell recently admitted that he has to improve his defensive game.

“We worked on a little bit of it today, and you got two 7-footers rotating and scrambling with you, it’s kind of like pick your poison,” Mitchell said last week. “But being able to guard and being on the ball and I definitely have to improve on that, but I think we’ve got a talented group that wants to work out and we’re only going to get better at it.

“And J.B. (head coach J.B.Bickerstaff) is going to hold us accountable for that. But when you have a group that’s fit for defense, that’s what’s first, and everything else comes after that. And for us, we have talented ground, and I’ll just look to add to that.”

In Bickerstaff’s second full season as Cleveland’s head coach, the team finished fifth in scoring (105.7 points allowed per game) and seventh in defensive rating (109.7).

But despite an impressive turnaround and 44-win season, the Cavaliers fell short of making the playoffs. Cleveland was ultimately undone by a lack of scoring punch in the play-in tournament.

They lost the No. 7 vs No. 8 seed tilt to Kevin Durant’s Brooklyn Nets before falling to the Atlanta Hawks in the final play-in game. The Cavs were 25th in team scoring and a mere 20th in offensive rating for the regular season.

Though the Cavaliers would happily welcome better defensive play from Mitchell, he was mostly brought in for his scoring. The three-time All-Star averaged over 20 points per game in each of his first five seasons (23.9 PPG for his career).

Gobert was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a blockbuster deal, weeks before the Cavaliers stunned the NBA by acquiring Mitchell. The Jazz are in rebuilding mode now, while Gobert and Mitchell get fresh starts to pursue championships with clubs that are loaded with young talent.

2021-22 marked the Cavaliers’ first winning season without LeBron James on the roster since 1997-98. They may have missed out on the postseason, but it was still a nice turnaround for an organization that has struggled to get by without James, who left for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018 free agency.

Now, we wait and see what this young core can do with Mitchell now in the fold.

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