As most know by now, the Cleveland Cavaliers came out of nowhere and acquired three-time All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell. When the Utah Jazz trade talks stalled with the New York Knicks, the Cavs jumped at the opportunity.
To land Mitchell, Cleveland traded forward Lauri Markkanen, first-round rookie Ochai Agbaji, and restricted free agent Collin Sexton — who immediately signed a four-year, $72 million deal with the Jazz. But that’s not all; the Cavaliers also sent three unprotected first-round picks (2025, 2027, and 2029) and swapped two picks (2026 and 2028).
After the massive deal, most immediately asked one question: Are the Cavs contenders in the East? The trade has simmered for one week. Reality has set in; Mitchell is a Cavalier. Thoughts regarding the trade have become well-thought-out rather than impulsive. Let’s break down the trade, the Cavs’ roster, and how the new addition impacts NBA odds.
Acquiring Mitchell deserves an A+ grade. Utah wanted New York’s core piece, RJ Barrett. Cleveland avoided trading any core piece. Sexton was the best player involved, but he was already on his way out as a free agent. In addition, the Cavaliers unloaded Markkanen’s hefty four-year, $67.4 million contract. The Cavs selected Agbaji to address wing scoring. Mitchell’s skillset emphatically checks that box.
Trading three first-round picks were the biggest loss. However, the Cavaliers have a brilliant young core. Point guard Darius Garland, Mitchell, power forward Evan Mobley, and center Jarrett Allen are on contract for at least three seasons. This is a team on the verge of contending. Do they really need the first-rounders right now? Cleveland’s roster is already quite good.
Land Beaming with Young Stars
General Manager Koby Altman struck while the iron’s hot. Before a slew of injuries, Cleveland was contending for the Eastern Conference’s top seed in 2022. Garland had a fantastic year, earning All-Star honors. Allen also made his first All-Star appearance. Plus, Mobley finished second in Rookie of the Year voting.
Last season, the Cavaliers needed more scoring from the wing. As one of the league’s best shooting guards, Mitchell is about as good as it gets. He is a certified bucket getter that averaged 24 or more points for three consecutive seasons.
One of the best & most exciting young players in the league!
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) September 7, 2022
Garland is a 20-point scorer and elite playmaker. Allen and Mobley have fantastic defensive versatility. Mobley’s offensive skillset is rapidly improving while Allen is great in the pick and roll. This is truly an elite core that checks nearly every box.
Mitchell, Garland, and Allen are All-Stars, and Mobley feels destined to be one sooner rather than later. Best of all, each player is 26 or younger: Mobley (21), Garland (22), Allen (24), and Mitchell (26).
Clearly, the future is bright in Cleveland, but can this team contend now?
Chances in the Treacherous Eastern Conference
Remember when the Eastern Conference was a laughingstock? That’s now far from the case. Since LeBron James joined the Los Angeles Lakers, the East has turned into a free for all.
With the Cavaliers joining the fun, the conference features nine great squads. The Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, and Philadelphia 76ers look like legit title contenders. Cleveland falls into the second tier with the Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, and Toronto Raptors.
Per NBA lines, the Cavs’ title odds dropped to +3300. Cleveland will be a playoff team, and it could win a round. Garland is a near-perfect pairing with Mitchell.
Many have knocked Mitchell’s playmaking through the years. He can now focus on scoring as Garland runs the offense. In the frontcourt, Allen and Mobley make up for Garland and Mitchell’s defensive inefficiencies. There’s little concern with Cleveland’s lead pieces, but a small forward is an issue.
Players like Jayson Tatum and Jimmy Butler will be big matchup problems. Former top-5 pick Isaac Okoro will likely start at small forward. He has a high defensive upside but is 6-foot-5. Caris LeVert will come off the bench, but he’s not known for his defense.
For the 2022 season, an NBA Finals appearance looks unlikely. However, the Cavs are one addition away from becoming true contenders. With Ricky Rubio, LeVert, Kevin Love, Robin Lopez, and Cedi Osman, Cleveland has a good bench. If the Wine and Gold get a reliable 3-and-D small forward, look out NBA.
Garland, Mitchell, Mobley, and Allen are an exciting core that will make noise for years to come. Cleveland fans are riding high with a cavalier attitude.