Who should start for Cavs at the 3 after Donovan Mitchell trade?

Darius Garland and Dean Wade, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Darius Garland and Dean Wade, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images /

In what was a blockbuster move on Thursday, the Cleveland Cavaliers reportedly acquired Utah Jazz star guard Donovan Mitchell in exchange for a number of pieces. Collin Sexton (via sign-and-trade), Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji, three first-round picks and two pick swaps were sent to Utah.

In the deal, Cleveland sent three first-rounders, which were all unprotected; the picks were the Cavs’ in 2025, 2027 and 2029, with swaps in 2026 and 2028. You can view more on the reported details here.

There were Mitchell-Cavaliers rumors seemingly, and the Wine and Gold did reportedly inquire about a potential Mitchell deal with the Jazz, so this wasn’t completely out of left field.

The New York Knicks were the club that still seemed to be among the leaders for landing Mitchell, though, who appeared to be next in line to be moved by the Jazz, who traded Rudy Gobert in a big deal to the Minnesota Timberwolves earlier in the offseason.

But the Knicks recently gave RJ Barrett a four-year, $120 million extension this week, and while they still could’ve theoretically acquired Mitchell later, it appeared far less likely they’d end up with him. There were others, it just seemed less likely Mitchell would be acquired by them.

The Washington Wizards were seemingly rumored to be in the thick of things from there, and in terms of the Cavs, they were reportedly out of the Mitchell sweepstakes as of last week it appeared. Not too long ago, it looked to be increasingly unlikely that Cleveland was not going to be landing Mitchell.

Even still, the Cavaliers were again a team that were involved in rumors about the star guard, and as Thursday afternoon substantiated, Mitchell is going to be a Cavalier for the foreseeable future likely. I have my concerns, frankly, but I do acknowledge the dude is talented, and is in his prime, so we’ll see what happens.

And the two clubs we touched on before did reportedly revisit a deal they’d be discussing following New York not agreeing to a deal, however, and Cleveland and Utah ultimately did agree on a deal, in which they’ll pair Mitchell with fellow emerging star guard Darius Garland. Cleveland didn’t trade Jarrett Allen in the deal, either, which was a key early takeaway, and those three, along with Evan Mobley, are undoubtedly now the foundation moving forward for the Cavs.

All of that being said, with Markkanen gone, who did pretty well often as Cleveland’s starting de facto 3 in his first year with the Cavs last season, who should start at the 3 now?

After this Mitchell trade, the Cavs would be best-suited to start Dean Wade at the 3.

In my opinion, I’d prefer the Cavaliers go with Dean Wade in that spot.

The likes of Isaac Okoro and Caris LeVert would likely be the guys that first come to mind for many, and I get the reasoning. Okoro’s defense is his calling card, and he’ll still factor in some at the 3 this upcoming season, one would assume.

He has the skill set to be multi-positional on that end, and with the threats of Garland and Mitchell both, it could help him make marketed strides offensively with the attention they’ll draw, and he did demonstrate some catch-and-shoot growth in Year 2.

With LeVert, that’d be about additional shot creation, and he could be a secondary playmaker for Cleveland for stretches as well, mixed in with some drives and theoretically, he could be a meaningful cutter on the weak side.

With those players, though, the off-ball viability is a big concern to me as far as catch-and-shoot play, and with the success Cleveland last season with the three-big look for considerable stretches on defense, I’d rather go with Dean Wade.

No, that’s probably not the choice at first glance for many Cavs fans, but Wade over the last two seasons has done nice work on defense, which has to be the focus with a Garland-Mitchell backcourt, and Wade being 6-foot-9 for that look is meaningful. Last season, he adjusted pretty well to playing more of his minutes at the 3, and while there were more so spot minutes for him rotationally, which I questioned, frankly, he did commendable work when starting.

It was also notable that while Wade had far less minutes in his bench appearances, which were 23 last season, and shot only 30.0 percent from three in 10.8 minutes in those, he shot 37.5 percent from three in 28 starting appearances. In those outings, though 7.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in 26.2 minutes per contest didn’t jump out, per se, it should lead to optimism in the sense that he could build on that playing off big-time another shot creator in Mitchell, along with Evan Mobley.

Plus, Wade’s defense against opposing wings and forwards has to be emphasized here, and despite me being probably more of a fan of Lamar Stevens here for than Okoro, the off-ball viability of Stevens is not nearly that even. Stevens could still be a guy Cleveland utilizes for some stretches, anyhow, and if that’d cut well into Okoro and/or LeVert’s minutes, so be it.

From there, in theory, if he’s still around, with seemingly continual trade rumors in mind here, Cedi Osman could be an alternative to those others. But we’ve seen that movie before, and Osman’s defensive struggles and up-and-down offense make that appear to be unrealistic.

So, all things taken into account, from my perspective, playing off the Garland-Mitchell backcourt, and with Wade being likely the best defensive option regularly, Cleveland should be starting him next season typically at the 3.

Wade’s off-ball play and movement sense has to be greatly factored in here as well, and while the minutes variance has to be considered, him being a part of Cleveland’s second-best lineup in terms of net rating, among lineups with at least 35 minutes played last season, was noteworthy.

That group of Garland, Okoro, Wade, Mobley and Allen had a net rating of plus-22.4, per NBA.com’s lineup data. The minutes amounted to be 108, and there wasn’t a ton of widely-used 5-man lineups due to injuries, in fairness, but that was meaningful as far as Wade, in particular. That’s given how he didn’t have nearly the rotational PT to establish a consistent rhythm on offense, conversely to others in the mix.

Moreover, in my opinion, although I’d be pretty surprised if it did play out that way, aside from injury, the Cavs should roll with Wade as their regular starting 3. This is in the sense that he’s around of course; his deal is again not fully-guaranteed for next season, similarly to Stevens.

dark. Next. 3 burning questions following Cavs' Mitchell trade

But I’d be shocked if he doesn’t stick around through this coming season, and realistically, one could foresee him being signed to a new deal, albeit fairly reasonable.