In a blockbuster off season move, the Cleveland Cavaliers gave up three players and several first round draft picks to the Utah Jazz in exchange for NBA All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell. When the trade was announced, there were moans and groans about how the Cavs gave up way too much for the undersized shooting guard.
What did Cleveland give up? In order to get Mitchell, they gave the Utah Jazz Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, 2022 Draftee Ochair Agbaji, three unprotected first-round picks as well as two pick swaps. It does sound like a lot, but when you take a breath, sit down and think about all the considerations, did they?
Why The Mitchell Trade Is GREAT For The Cavs
As I discussed the trade with friends on several group chats, the concern was that Mitchell was an undersized guard who doesn’t play defense, shoots 35% from three and the comps for athletic players his size aren’t great as they age.
This might be true, but data only tells part of the story and the thing about NBA players, they’re all unique and there aren’t 1:1 player comparisons. A true analysis of the trade is much-more nuanced and has many more considerations than who got whom in the trade. Put another way, NBA trades are not nearly as straightforward as NBA2k Ratings, NBA Wordle or Hentai VR. We’re going to look at several reasons why this was a great move by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the current composition of their roster.
Offense: With Darius Garland as the sole ballhandler for Cleveland, the Cavs were 20th in the league offensively. The addition of Mitchell gives the Cavs another ballhandler and clear primary scoring option. On top of that, Mitchell brings an above average playoff resume.
Also-Ran to In The Mix: On paper, the Cavs have gone from a team that surprised last season and ended up being eliminated in the play-in game. With Mitchell, and without trading away any of their core pieces in Garland, Evan Mobley, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen, they go from potentially being another #9 or #10 seed, to as high as a four seed, (and no lower than seventh). In short the Cavs have improved their team by a couple levels.
Set For A Couple Seasons: As mentioned above, the Cavs have a super young core that is now locked in for at least two more seasons together. Mitchell is 25. Garland is just 22 years old. Allen is 24 and Mobley is 21.
Donovan Mitchell – Age 25
Jarrett Allen – Age 24
Darius Garland – Age 22
Evan Mobley – Age 21
It’s gonna be nice to be a Cavs fan for a while.
— Steph Noh (@StephNoh) September 1, 2022
Cavs Org Shows They Want To Improve: When it comes to Garland, Mobley, Allen and Mitchell thinking about resigning with the Cavs, they’ll consider all the things the organization done to improve during their tenure. Sitting on picks is a good strategic move for the franchise, but that doesn’t mean anything to players when they’re deciding to stay or leave a team. Making (and advancing) in the playoffs for 2-3 seasons in a row will certainly work in Cleveland’s favor.
Small Market Tax: Listen, even the people in Cleveland will tell you that it’s not a destination for NB free agents. In order to get a big name free agent, you have to pay a little more as a small market NBA team especially when you’re up against the deep pockets of a franchise like the New York Knicks. And winning begets free agents. The more Cleveland proves that it’s a team that is on the upward trajectory, that will attract other free agents that will fill in the pieces that the Cavs need to take the next step.
Playoff Money: There are multitude of factors that go into evaluating a trade. This one isn’t talked about enough and that’s the organization’s interest in making money. If adding Donovan Mitchell to a roster that was on the cusp of the playoffs, the assumption is that the team, in all likelihood, will make the playoffs outright the next season. And you know what comes with making the playoffs? Money. What would be empty seats in the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in late May will be full. Shirts and jerseys will be selling. The television money. Even if the Cavs were to go out in six games in the first round, those handful of playoff games can earn the organization tens of millions of dollars.
There are a couple other advantages that the Cavs gained by pulling the trigger on the Donovan Mitchell trade, but we made our point. If you’re a Cleveland fan that’s bummed by the idea that you lost out on all that draft capital, you need to change your mindset and look at your roster NOW. Your core players are young and got a taste of playoff competition last season. Sports Illustrated said it concisely:
You also have to consider the larger factors at play here. How else was Cleveland going to improve? The roster is ahead of schedule, which makes trying to add star talent in the draft difficult. The city is not a free-agent destination. Mitchell may not be a perfect star, but then again those players rarely become available. It’s a worthy gamble for a small-market team to put together this much young talent.
With Mitchell in tow, you have a team that can compete; get into the second round of the NBA playoffs in 2023. Though the true test of the trade will be where the Cleveland Cavaliers will be in the 2024 and 2025 season, there’s no doubt that the 2022-23 season has a lot more promise than before the trade.