Windhorst: Knicks Thought Evan Mobley's Contract Would Limit Cavs' Mitchell Pursuit

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 21, 2022

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Evan Mobley is a young building block for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the New York Knicks reportedly thought Cleveland wouldn't go all-in on a Donovan Mitchell trade based on how it could impact its ability to re-sign the big man down the line.

ESPN's Brian Windhorst (h/t RealGM) explained the Cavaliers' decision to trade for Mitchell caught the Knicks off guard:

"Frankly, I think when the Knicks were negotiating against the Cavs, the Knicks knew that the Cavs were bidding against them. The Knicks, I think, thought they were bidding against themselves. And I think one of the reasons why the Knicks weren't 100 percent certain the Cavs were going to go all-in is because they were saying, 'Well, the Cavs can't trade for Donovan Mitchell because it will handcuff them on Evan Mobley.'"

RealGM broke down the situation with Mobley, noting the Cavaliers cannot have three five-year designated rookie-scale max-extension players on the roster at the same time.

Since Mitchell and Darius Garland fit that designation, Mobley will not be able to sign a five-year max extension in 2024 when he is eligible if they are both still on the roster. Cleveland can instead either offer the USC product a four-year max extension in 2024 and potentially see him hit the open market earlier or wait to sign him to a five-year max in 2025 when he is a restricted free agent.

It wouldn't have been surprising if the Cavaliers prioritized the Mobley situation given that he is just 21 years old and coming off an All-Rookie season that saw him average 15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game while shooting 50.8 percent from the field, but the opportunity to pair him with Mitchell proved to be too enticing.

That decision ended an offseason filled with Mitchell rumors that almost made it seem inevitable the former Utah Jazz star would end up on the Knicks.

He even told reporters during his introductory press conference he thought he was headed to the Big Apple:

ClutchPoints @ClutchPointsApp

"I thought for sure I was going back home, I'm not gonna lie about that."<a href="https://twitter.com/spidadmitchell?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@spidadmitchell</a> on being hopeful that he was going home to play for the Knicks<a href="https://t.co/jKWmYFK7tB">pic.twitter.com/jKWmYFK7tB</a>

Instead, the Cavaliers have one of the best young cores in the league as a result of the trade. Garland, Mobley and Jarrett Allen spearheaded a run to the play-in tournament last season, but the addition of Mitchell ensures there is a go-to scorer in place who has proved he can take over in the biggest moments.

The three-time All-Star averaged 23.9 points per game in the regular season during his time with the Jazz but elevated that to 28.3 points per game in the postseason.

The hope in Cleveland is he will have plenty of opportunities to build on those playoff numbers before the team even has to worry about Mobley's contract.


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