With the Cleveland Cavaliers on the brink of elimination after their 102-93 loss to the New York Knicks in Game 4 of the NBA Playoffs, there has been some debate in regards to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Donovan Mitchell. Context matters, as it is a small majority of people who believe that the Cleveland Cavaliers made a mistake trading for shooting guard Donovan Mitchell this past offseason. To quickly recap, Cleveland sent point guard Collin Sexton, small forward Lauri Markkanen, and rookie shooting guard Ochai Agbaji in exchange for shooting guard Donovan Mitchell.
Cleveland also gave up three first round picks and two pick swaps. At a glance, people believe that the Cavaliers gave up too much for one player. Those individuals don’t understand that Cleveland got Donovan Mitchell without having to give up any of their core players. The Cavs core players are currently point guard Darius Garland, power forward Evan Mobley, and center Jarrett Allen. Since all of them are still on the roster, Cleveland didn’t make a mistake trading for Mitchell.
It appeared that Collin Sexton was approaching a breakout season but he tore his meniscus and was ruled out for the remainder of the season. This gave way for Darius Garland to enter the picture. Garland was an all star last year and he saw his numbers improve by a significant margin. His points per game went up and the same goes for his assists. Garland evolved as a player, both as a scorer and a playmaker.
As for the rest of the group, Evan Mobley was a candidate for rookie of the year and Jarrett Allen was an all-star and saw career highs in both points and rebounds. It appeared that the team was trending up as the team was a top three seed in the East before the all-star break. Injuries were the team’s undoing as key players went down at the wrong time, Evan Mobley missed time and so did Jarrett Allen.
Cleveland went from a top three seed to a play-in team and Cleveland missed out on the postseason. The offseason arrived, and Collin Sexton was in line for a new contract. However, Cleveland didn’t value Sexton as highly as they viewed Darius Garland. It was Garland who got paid by the Cavs and not Sexton.
Darius Garland agrees to a five-year, $193M contract extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers, per @wojespn pic.twitter.com/QPIYVqCHJF
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 2, 2022
At best, Sexton was viewed as a 6th man by the upper management for Cleveland and his market dictated that.
REPORT: The Cavaliers have offered Collin Sexton a multi-year deal in the $40M range.
(via @ChrisFedor, https://t.co/hATuiQMpnF) pic.twitter.com/4cIM9w9z5S
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) July 24, 2022
Believe it or not, but Collin Sexton was expendable. The Cavaliers have been missing a star level player since LeBron James left and with Cleveland being a small market city, the only chance they had at landing top tier talent was by trade. Last offseason, all of the talk surrounding Donovan Mitchell was which team he would end up after Utah was heading towards a rebuild. It appeared that his hometown New York Knicks were the frontrunners to land him, however Utah opted to choose Cleveland as a team to do business with. The Knicks made two offers for Mitchell.
First offer that New York offered Utah
- Small forward RJ Barrett (he was also included in the second offer)
- Power forward Obi Toppin
- Center Mitchell Robinson
- Three unprotected first round picks
- Point guard Immanuel Quickley
- Two unprotected first round picks
Cleveland offered this:
- PG Collin Sexton
- SF Lauri Markkanen
- SG Ochai Agbaji
- Three unprotected first round picks
- Two pick swaps
At a glance, Utah took a less attractive package in Cleveland instead of New York’s lucrative offer. In terms of asset value, Cleveland gave away good, not great value. At the time, Lauri and Collin were role players and Ochai was a rookie. As for the picks, those picks would have been late first round picks instead of lottery selections. If you compare Cleveland’s current season to their previous season it is a vast difference with the acquisition of Donovan Mitchell.
2021-22 Cleveland Cavaliers:
- Season Record: 44-38 (missed postseason)
- Offensive Rating: 20th
- Defensive Rating: 7th
- Net Rating: 13th
2022-23 Cleveland Cavaliers:
- Season Record: 51-31
- Offensive Rating: 9th
- Defensive Rating: 1st
- Net Rating: 2nd
Donovan Mitchell helped Cleveland more than anyone realized. Darius Garland continued to improve, he’s averaging the same amount of points he had last season but he’s shooting a better percentage from the field. Cleveland’s offense was much better with the addition of Mitchell as they had another scorer alongside Garland. As a whole, the team went from a borderline play-in team to a top four team in the Eastern Conference.
While trading for Mitchell was considered a positive by many, others will believe the Cavaliers gave up too much and it’s costing them currently in the postseason. It is not a guarantee that if the Cleveland Cavaliers kept their original core and chose not to add Donovan Mitchell to their current team, last year’s team doesn’t make the leap that this year’s team did. If Cleveland kept Sexton, Markkanen and Agbaji this team is likely a play-in team.
As for why Cleveland is struggling currently in the postseason it is a multitude of things but that’s another topic for another day. If Cleveland had the opportunity to do this trade again, I believe they would not hesitate. However, the roster itself has holes that weren’t addressed at the trade deadline. Cleveland hasn’t got any bench production at all this postseason. It is a roster that needs to be tweaked, the core group of Mitchell, Mobley, Allen and Garland will likely be minus one of the four players.
If I had to guess Jarrett Allen is the odd man out. Cleveland didn’t make a mistake by trading for Donovan Mitchell, however they didn’t add more pieces to help compliment the team a bit. Regardless of how the season ends, Cleveland made the right choice in acquiring Donovan Mitchell and now the team has to figure out what to do next.