Kevin Durant didn’t get traded, but we got the next best thing.
In somewhat of a shocking event, the Cleveland Cavaliers have acquired All-Star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz. In exchange for their franchise player, Utah received Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji, three unprotected first-round picks, and two pick swaps. After months of the Knicks being the team primarily linked to Mitchell, the Cavs being the ones to get it done was not expected.
So what does this deal mean for both sides? I’ll be breaking down my immediate thoughts and handing out grades (which will be subject to change once these guys play for their new teams). Let’s get started!
After injuries halted Cleveland’s Cinderella run into the playoffs last season, they are now poised to get over the hump with the help of Donovan Mitchell. The star shooting guard has been a winning first option since his rookie campaign, leading the Jazz to the playoffs all five years of his career.
With Mitchell paired next to Darius Garland, the Cavs now boast perhaps the best backcourt in basketball. The offensive firepower is ridiculous. Both create for themselves and others at a high level with the ball in their hands. Both are solid catch-and-shoot threats as well, so they can play off each other.
While the O is looking scary, it’s the D that’s questionable. Both Garland and Mitchell are 6’1” and small backcourts have a history of falling apart due to defense. Personally, I’m a believer this one will work out with no problems. They both hold up better than other tiny tandems, specifically Mitchell who uses his length and athleticism to be a positive defender if engaged. That proved to be an if in the 2022 playoffs, but I think Mitchell will embrace the “junkyard dog” culture and lock in on D.
Even if those two are struggling, they are surrounded by the menacing rim protection of Jarrett Allen, the help-side swatting and switchability of Evan Mobley, and the perimeter lockdown of Isaac Okoro. The Cavs defensive unit as a whole is better than any Jazz lineup.
Overall, the Cavaliers are shaping up to be one of the better squads in the East. They will have to get past true contenders like the Bucks and the Celtics, but even if they can’t make it far in the short term they will be competitive for the next decade. Mitchell, Garland, Allen, and Mobley are all 25 or younger and they’re one of the best top fours in the league. Watch out for Cleveland in the 2022-23 season.
With both of their superstars off the roster, the Jazz have cleaned slate and are starting from scratch. They amassed a grand total of eight unprotected first-round picks from both trades (along with two swaps). With more deals likely to come involving Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Jordan Clarkson, Utah is headed towards a full rebuild that will stick them in the lottery for several seasons to come. After failing in the postseason year after year, this is probably the right move.
Outside of that, I’m excited for number one option Collin Sexton. While I don’t think it’s his long-term role, he will have the opportunity to prove to everybody that he’s more than just a microwave sixth man. He’s a 20-point-per-game scorer and has knocked down nearly 38% of his tries from deep for his career, and guys like that don’t grow on trees.
Trades always have winners and the victor of this deal will be decided a while from now. As of today, with Cleveland putting themselves up there with the best teams in the East and Utah pulling the trigger on a necessary overhaul, it’s a win-win.