When the Cleveland Cavaliers traded for superstar Donovan Mitchell last offseason, it sent shockwaves throughout the league. Mitchell was largely expected to be a New York Knick, as he is a New York native and the Knicks have been craving superstar talent since Carmelo Anthony left.
When they did not want to meet the Utah Jazz’s demands, the Cavs swooped in and sent Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji, and three first-round picks for Mitchell. Two pick swaps were included as well.
It was a pricey move for a superstar, but Mitchell more than proved his worth this season. He had the best year of his career, as he averaged a career-high in points, field goal percentage, and three-point percentage. He made All-NBA Second Team and finished sixth in MVP voting. He led the Cavs to their first playoff berth in five years, 51 wins, and a top four seed in the Eastern Conference. A largely successful year, right? Well, the ending was like the final season of Game of Thrones: disappointing.
The Cavaliers were bounced in the first round of the playoffs, and this has caused Mitchell trade rumors to spark again it seems. On a recent episode of The Hoop Collective podcast, as h/t New York Basketball, Tim Bontemps of ESPN expressed how he believes there is zero chance that Mitchell signs an extension in Cleveland and the Cavs should trade him now. While that is not a reporter’s opinion Cavs fans wanted to hear, there is no reason for panic–yet.
No, the Cavs should not trade Mitchell at this moment, after just one playoff opportunity with him.
When Mitchell and the Cavs lost in five games to the Knicks in the first round of the playoffs, it was ugly. Even Mitchell himself looked rattled. He is a top 10 playoff scorer ever in terms of average, yet he only averaged 23 points per game and shot 29 percent from three-point range. Those splits were a far cry from his usual postseason performance. In addition to that, this was the first postseason for many on the Cavaliers’ roster, and they had some glaring flaws that were viciously exposed by the pesky Knicks.
Fortunately, those weaknesses (mainly shooting) have been addressed this offseason. Adding Max Strus and Georges Niang greatly improves Cleveland’s shooting and adds another layer to their offense. The Cavs should be better suited for success this next year now that their weaknesses have been addressed, which makes Bontemps’ comments that much more interesting. Why trade Mitchell now if the roster has been improved?
While Mitchell is a New York native, it does not make sense from a career standpoint to force a trade now, nor does it make sense for the Cavaliers to trade him now. With two years left on his contract, and a player option after the 2024-25 season, Mitchell has time to figure his situation out. He has stated many times that he is happy to be with the Cavs.
Yes, he has not signed a contract extension to back up those statements, but it is pretty clear that Mitchell is waiting to be eligible for a supermax extension next offseason, provided that he makes All-NBA again. All in all, there is absolutely no reason to consider trading Donovan Mitchell as of July 2023, but that could all change a year from now.
If the Cavaliers do not win a playoff series next season, it will mark the fifth time Mitchell has been bounced in the first round in his career. For a star player, that is a very tough pill to swallow. Even Cavs President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman acknowledged that the Cavs have to have success in order for Mitchell to stick around, after reiterating his desire that he wants him in the Land long term, via Cleveland.com. All Mitchell wants to do is win.
Mitchell sees his peers having success and he craves the same. He wants to succeed in Cleveland and he will get the chance this season and hopefully beyond. It makes zero sense to trade him now, even if he does not sign an extension this offseason.
However, as we all know, superstar trade requests are becoming more common than a Ben Simmons offseason workout video. All it takes is a little failure and they won’t hesitate to force their way out. If Mitchell fails with the Cavaliers once again next year, then Bontemps’ report/claim makes total sense. Until then, Spida Man has his web set in the Land.
Let’s hope he doesn’t want to web-shoot his way to New York (or elsewhere) next offseason.