Cavs acquire Donovan Mitchell in surprising summer trade, what does this mean?

Donovan Mitchell’s trade situation is now finalised, after news broke last night confirming the Cleveland Cavaliers – not the New York Knicks – have acquired the three-time All-Star guard, sending three players, a trio of first-round picks and two swaps to Utah in return. All things considered, how will this deal impact both sides and more besides?

knicks snubbed, Mitchell is Cleveland bound

Cavs get Donovan Mitchell, 2022-23 is second season of five-year $163m designated rookie extension
Utah receives: Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji, three first-round picks and two pick swaps.

The inital reaction is one of shock, because all summer long we – media, fans, players – were led to believe it was only a matter of time before the New York Knicks eventually produced a trade offer deemed enticing enough for Danny Ainge to accept.

Instead, as has become commonplace in recent seasons, a new suitor – and there were many – appeared from the woodwork, snatching another player the Knicks franchise were heavily courting.

Seeing Mitchell play for one of their conference rivals in the years to come will present a familiar sinking feeling for some of their fans, though ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski detailed the trade offer Utah rebuffed from them in July.

It included RJ Barrett – who has since signed a four-year, $120m extension – Obi Toppin, Mitchell Robinson and three first-round picks.

If that package couldn’t persuade Utah, it’s difficult to envisage a scenario where the decision would’ve changed without additional draft capital.

Many league insiders feel Minnesota overplayed their hand to acquire three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert earlier this offseason, but Utah were always going to be patient deciding Mitchell’s destination after noises of discomfort and sustained playoff disappointment accelerated this.

On paper, that deal is stronger than the one accepted, but Utah’s rebuild mode has begun after receiving such a haul for their two franchise cornerstones.

what about Cavaliers’ core group now?

As for the Cavs, who lost against Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks in the play-in tournament to finish a promising campaign with frustration, they’ll naturally be expected to get over the hump reaching the postseason proper for the first time since LeBron James’ second departure in 2018.

They were one of last season’s best teams to watch, taking the Eastern Conference by storm before untimely injuries saw them stumble after the All-Star break.

High-scoring guard Darius Garland had even greater licence to flourish and had a career year as Collin Sexton quietly rehabbed from a season-long knee injury.

Meanwhile Jarrett Allen announced himself as an All-Star center alongside Rookie of the Year candidate Evan Mobley who settled quickly.

Their size, swarming defence and depth helped them overperform expectations under J.B. Bickerstaff, who went against the conventional mould with a massive frontcourt featuring the latter two and a motivated Lauri Markkanen among new surroundings after departing Chicago.

While the Hawks and 76ers are among the contenders who’ve improved their ball clubs this summer, Cleveland’s core group of youngsters who continue improving served as an appetiser in their motivation to make a big move themselves.

Sexton gets paid, utah rebuild in full flow?

Even with recency bias a necessary evil, it was uncomfortable seeing Sexton quickly disrespected as he helplessly watched teammates shine without him and was later questioned about such high contract demands as his extension talks neared.

Understandably given the injury, subsequent deals they made to fill his role and preemptively wanting to cut costs, Cleveland couldn’t agree on a number.

The two sides were reportedly a considerable distance away from sealing new contract terms this summer and as such, a fully-guaranteed four-year, $72m deal with Utah gives the guard more freedom to focus on basketball among new surroundings.

24 in January, he’ll be keen to return to form and quickly silence the naysayers after enjoying rave reviews in Year 3 (20-21) where he averaged 24.3 points, 4.4 assists and 47.5 FG% in 60 games.

Utah’s trade return from their All-Star duo:

Players: Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson (acquired from Lakers for Patrick Beverley, part of the Gobert deal), Ochai Agbaji, Walker Kessler, Leandro Bolmaro.

Draft capital: Three unprotected first-round picks from Minnesota (2023, 2025, 2027), three more from Cleveland (2025, 2027, 2029), one 2029 top-5 protected pick from MIN, two R1 pick swaps with MIN (2026, 2028), two R1 pick swaps with CLE (2026, 2028)

At the time of writing, the Jazz find themselves with a whopping 13 first-round picks from now until 2029, plus two players (Agbaji, Kessler) selected during the first round of this summer’s draft.

That’s ignoring what will likely come next, in trades for their valuable veterans including Bojan Bogdanovic and 6MOTY winner Jordan Clarkson and doesn’t include their own first-round picks – more valuable given they’ll fall down the pecking order out West.

Ainge was criticised, but later praised for rebuilding the Boston Celtics through multiple Brooklyn Nets picks which became players such as current cornerstones Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Now, Utah are bracing themselves for a long overdue makeover of their own.

Picture source: Getty Images — information via The Athletic, ESPN

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