CLEVELAND, Ohio – We called a veteran NBA executive about the big trade in Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell.
To recap the trade, Cleveland sent Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaj and first-round picks in 2025, 2027 and 2029 to Utah for All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell. Utah and the Cavaliers also agreed to swap picks for 2026 and 2028, making Utah the top pick.
Executives are not affiliated with the Cavaliers and have no personal agenda. I expected him to have some of the same concerns I have about contracts – a small backcourt, swapping three first-round picks, undermining defenses.
“It’s all true,” he said. “But you miss an important point.”
“What is that?” I asked.
He explained that the Cavaliers are “in a unique situation.” Three young players dominate the team for the long term: Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. Then add Mitchell, a career 24-point scorer who is on a contract for another three years. Mitchell said he will be 26 years old on September 7th.
“Four talented young players (aged 21 to 26) rarely get together,” he said. “This is not something that will be done in a year. This is a chance to take a big step to really do something in the Orient. You have to take it.”
Garland and Allen were named to the All-Star team for the first time last season. Mobley looks like a future All-Star. Mitchell has been named an All-Star three times. Executives emphasized that Mitchell is “young, but ahead of the rest of the Cavaliers.”
Mitchell is averaging 28.3 points in 39 postseason games. Mobley, Allen and Garland’s playoff experience is limited to his two of his games in the “play-in” tournaments last season.
A different view of the offense
The Cavaliers ranked 20th in total offenses last season. They especially struggled to score near the end of the year when their opponent’s defense focused on shutting down point guard Garland.
Remember Cleveland’s 107-101 loss to Atlanta in the last “play-in” game? An exhausted Garland tried to run the offense. He was 9 of 27 off the field with an ugly 21 points. That game was one of the reasons why the Cavaliers’ front office was looking for another guard who could score.
An executive said of Mitchell’s ability: I think he and Garland can learn to play together. “
The Cavaliers were said to have some internal stats showing Garland to be very productive “off the ball.” He showed it last season when he paired with Ricky Rubio. They had a higher positive-to-minus ratio than any of his two players in the NBA last season.
Rubio re-signs with Cavaliers. The veteran guard played his two seasons (2017-19) with Mitchell in Utah. As such, guards are more likely to be able to develop chemistry quickly. Mitchell averaged 5.1 assists last season, so he can pass.
How’s the defense?
Executives stressed that the presence of 7-footers Allen and Mobley “could cover nearly everyone in the small forwards.” speculated that he would face 6-foot-6 Isaac Okoro at .
“I don’t think they miss Markkanen as much as you do,” he said. “I’m not disrespecting him, it’s just that Allen and Mobley are very unique defensively. It could be like when David Robinson and Tim Duncan played together in San Antonio. ”
He wasn’t going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame like Allen and Mobley were the stars of the Spurs. But this two of his 7-footers changed the game on defense, much like Allen and Mobley did last season.
Executives aren’t the only NBA insiders who have told me that Mitchell “could be better defensively.”
Mitchell played two seasons in Louisville, averaging 11.7 points and shooting 41%. He was known for his defense and athleticism when Utah took him 13th overall in their 2017 draft. Can the Cavaliers bring back that old mindset?
“With them, they always have to have at least two good players on the court at the same time,” he said. We need to avoid bad combinations.”
What about draft picks?
The executive I spoke to is old school and still somewhat shocked by all the first-round draft picks being traded around the NBA.
Before Mitchell signed with the Cavs, Utah traded Rudy Gobert to Minnesota for four first-round picks! They also added three players, including Minnesota’s top pick in the 2022 draft. Did.
The Cavaliers sent Utah three first-round picks and a 2022 top pick (Agbaj), along with Sexton and Markkanen.
The new theory is that teams can trade more first-round players because they are willing to trade first-round picks, especially picks from the lottery. So you can trade picks now and more later.
“The Cavs have at least a three-year window with these young players,” an executive said. “Three years is an eternity in the modern NBA.”
The Cavaliers haven’t made a real playoff (not play-in) without LeBron James since 1998. The last time he won his series in the playoffs without James was in 1993.
“They have a chance to do something special,” said the executive. “It’s the right time to do it.”
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