Winners and Losers From Jazz-Cavaliers Donovan Mitchell Trade

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 1, 2022

Winners and Losers From Jazz-Cavaliers Donovan Mitchell Trade

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    Donovan Mitchell (Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

    After a weeks-long stalemate between the Utah Jazz and New York Knicks, the Cleveland Cavaliers came off the top rope to snag Donovan Mitchell in a blockbuster trade on Thursday, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski:

    Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

    Full trade: Utah is trading Donovan Mitchell to Cleveland for Lauri Markkanen, Ochair Agbaji, Collin Sexton, three unprotected first-round picks and two pick swaps, sources tell ESPN.

    As part of the deal, Collin Sexton is reportedly signing a four-year, $72 million contract, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. Ochai Agbaji is about to start his rookie deal, while Lauri Markkanen is under contract through 2024-25.

    This deal is all about the picks, though. According to Wojnarowski, the Cavs are sending unprotected first-rounders in 2025, 2027 and 2029 as well as first-round pick swaps in 2026 and 2028.

    In concert with the Rudy Gobert trade that Utah made earlier this summer, the Jazz now have one of the league's most intriguing rebuild starter kits.

    Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

    Cleveland is sending its three unprotected picks to Utah in 2025, 2027 and 2029 and picks swaps in 2026 and 2028, sources tell ESPN. Along with the Rudy Gobert trade with Minnesota, Utah has gathered 13 unprotected or lightly protected picks through 2029.

    With so many picks involved, there will be no way to know who won this deal for a few years. Mitchell might continue his overtures to the Knicks before this contract is over. There's no guarantee that any of these picks will yield a player of Mitchell's caliber, either.

    But even as the dust is still settling, we can make some early calls on who we think won and lost this trade.

Winner: Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    This is a huge price to pay for Donovan Mitchell, a top-20 to -25-ish player who's often looked uninterested in defense over the last few seasons. There's no getting around that.

    But the Cavs, like the Minnesota Timberwolves with Rudy Gobert before them, were uniquely positioned to pay that price.

    With two All-Stars (Jarrett Allen and Darius Garland) and a likely future All-Star (Evan Mobley) all under the age of 25, there's an argument that Cleveland doesn't need another star through the draft. There's plenty of young talent already in place, and the Cavs now have another guard on the same developmental timeline who has a career playoff scoring average of 28.3 points.

    Along with Garland, Cleveland now has one of the NBA's most dynamic offensive backcourts. And if there's one frontcourt that would seem equipped to cover for the potential defensive deficiencies of those two, it may be Mobley and Allen.

    With those four alone, the Cavaliers feel like a borderline lock for the playoffs. A supporting cast that includes Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Caris LeVert and Isaac Okoro all but assures that.

Loser (in a Sense): Donovan Mitchell

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    Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

    Mitchell is going to a great basketball situation. He should be able to win plenty of games in a Cavaliers uniform.

    But he's also leaving what was a great situation, with a three-time Defensive Player of the Year center who didn't demand the kind of offensive role that a lot of other stars do.

    On a team with Garland, Mobley, Allen and the aforementioned role players, Mitchell may have to embrace sharing a bit more. On top of that, he's headed to a team and city that was not on his reported list of preferred destinations.

    For years, Mitchell and the Knicks seemed to be making not-so-secret gestures toward each other. Him landing there felt like a foregone conclusion. Last week, The Athletic's Tony Jones wrote that Mitchell's preferred destinations were the Knicks, Brooklyn Nets or Miami Heat.

    In the player empowerment era, this is one of the rare examples of a star not getting exactly what he wanted.

    The Cavs now have three seasons to sell Mitchell on the organization, though. (He has a player option for 2025-26.) And with the amount of young talent around him, they might do exactly that.

    If Mitchell buys in, this team could push Eastern Conference contenders as early as this upcoming season.

Winner: Utah Jazz

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    Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images

    There's no guarantee that Utah's suddenly massive stockpile of future draft picks will yield a three-time Defensive Player of the Year or a guard who can regularly eclipse 20 points per game. The chances of landing two players of that quality are even lower.

    But the relationship between Mitchell and Gobert had seemingly grown untenable. And it would be hard to justify turning down the compensation offered for both stars.

    Had Utah kept them, they probably would've kept winning 45-50 regular-season games every year. But Jazz CEO Danny Ainge appears rightfully emboldened by the success he had in building the Boston Celtics team that just made it to the NBA Finals.

    If he can turn this stockpile into multiple positionless wings like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Utah may wind up better suited for playoff basketball, when matchup-hunting and creation from various positions becomes exponentially more important.

    In the short term, watching the Jazz could be painful. But this is probably the right "rip the Band-Aid off" strategy for a rebuild.

Loser (Perhaps): New York Knicks

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    All summer, it felt like Utah and New York would eventually iron out their differences and get Mitchell to his preferred market. And the Knicks fans who'd gotten their hopes up for a starting five of Jalen Brunson, Mitchell, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson are surely disappointed.

    Having said that, Utah's asking price for Mitchell was astronomical. And his arrival in New York probably wouldn't have pushed the Knicks as close to title contention as he should with the Cavaliers.

    Without this trade, the Knicks remain one of the most asset-rich franchises in the league. They have plenty of under-25 talent in Barrett, Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin.

    Internal development alone should put the Knicks in a better position within a few years, but they also have the pieces that they could have used to get Mitchell for future trades.

    In today's NBA, you never know when someone will demand a way out. The Knicks are poised to pounce on the next opportunity.

Winner: Teams Interested in Utah's Veterans

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    Justin Ford/Getty Images

    With Mitchell and Gobert gone, Utah is going to be one of the worst teams in the Western Conference. For Jordan Clarkson, Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic, all of whom are in their 30s, the prospect of toiling away for such a team can't be enticing.

    The few wins they might add aren't what Utah is in the market for, either. This season is all about adding pingpong balls in the lottery.

    With all sides likely motivated to find better situations for the vets, Utah is surely fielding plenty of phone calls right now.

    Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

    Utah still has coveted veteran trade asserts, including Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson and Mike Conley Jr. They'll approach an Oklahoma City-esque haul of draft assets once they're done dealing. Jazz consider Markkanen, Sexton and Agbaji keepers for their rebuilding roster.

    Take, for example, the Los Angeles Lakers. If the "Russell Westbrook and picks" package isn't enough to pry Buddy Hield and Myles Turner from the Indiana Pacers, why not offer it for Conley and Bogdanovic?

    Any other teams in need of consistent, reliable shooting should do a price check on Bogdanovic or Conley. Teams in need of a sparkplug scorer off the bench should inquire about Clarkson.

    The biggest dominoes have fallen. The rest probably aren't far behind.

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