The NBA offseason wouldn’t have been complete without some clarity on Donovan Mitchell, and we finally have it: The Cavaliers have acquired Mitchell from the Jazz in a blockbuster deal that sends Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, and Ochai Agbaji to Utah along with three first-round picks and two pick swaps.
Long considered a target of the Knicks, Mitchell suddenly joins forces with Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen as Cleveland looks to return to the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James’ exit.
Cavaliers Declare Themselves a Contender
The Cavaliers went into last season with expectations of improvement but not necessarily playoff contention. Instead, they were in playoff position all season.
While they came up just short as a result of the play-in round, new parameters were established: playoffs-or-bust in 2023. Now, with Mitchell on board, playoffs are the bare minimum.
Garland and Mitchell are one of the NBA’s best backcourts, and it’s easy to forget Jarrett Allen was an all-star last season thanks to his two-way abilities. Garland has made huge strides as a scorer and a passer since entering the NBA. With Mitchell now sharing the backcourt, the assist numbers should continue to rise for Garland.
The development of Evan Mobley suddenly becomes critical for Cleveland. If Mobley can turn into a legitimate all-star, which isn’t far-fetched if you watched him play as a rookie, there aren’t many teams better set up long-term than the Cavaliers. Mitchell, Garland, Allen, and Mobley are all under contract for at least the next three seasons, and together they give the Cavs a well-balanced attack on both ends of the floor.
Utah’s Offseason of Change is Complete
A first-round playoff exit always meant this offseason would bring change for the Jazz, and change has come as promised. In fact, it’s been a total overhaul.
After Quin Snyder resigned in June, giving way to the hire of young head coach Will Hardy, the Jazz shipped Rudy Gobert to Minnesota for a huge haul of draft picks of young players. Though there were initial reports they wanted to build around Mitchell, it gradually became clear the franchise was ready for a fresh start. It doesn’t get any fresher than this.
The Jazz can put together nearly an entire roster with the players they have acquired via trade this offseason, including last week’s Patrick Beverley deal. Utah has now landed two players drafted in the first round by other teams this year, adding Agbaji alongside Walker Kessler. Agbaji was the 14th pick out of Kansas back in June and could be an impact scorer as a rookie given he’s on the older side.
While Markkanen may or may not be in Utah’s plans, Sexton apparently is: he already agreed to a new 4yr/$72M contract with the Jazz. The offense-first guard missed most of this past season but averaged 24.3 points/game in 2020-21.
With Gobert and Mitchell out of the way, who could be next to go? Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Jordan Clarkson all seem like they no longer fit in Utah’s long-term plans. The two months between the Gobert and Mitchell deals prove the Jazz are willing to wait for the right return before they pull the trigger on a trade, so don’t necessarily expect those three to all be gone by opening night, but they’re all likely on the way out at some point.
Cavaliers’ Title Odds Jump
Calling the Cavaliers a realistic championship contender is still a stretch, but they have at least put themselves on the map today. The Cavs’ title odds jumped from +9000 to +3000 on DraftKings, while Utah’s already distant odds dropped from +20000 to +40000. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s odds to win the Central Division improved from +900 to +425, and their odds to win the East leapt from +4000 to +1600.
In an Eastern Conference with a stockpile of very good teams but no truly elite force, the Cavaliers have a chance to make some noise in the playoffs next season (and beyond), rather than just sneaking in.