Sure, there’s been chatter about how Donovan Mitchell might end up going home, eventually. Last offseason, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that Mitchell would be traded to the New York Knicks, his hometown team.
Then in what was nearly the blink of an eye, the script was flipped. Mitchell’s former team in the Utah Jazz traded him to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland landed Mitchell, who had made the past three All-Star Games with the Jazz, and immediately, the Cavaliers boosted their star power considerably with his arrival.
Utah did land quite a haul for Mitchell’s services in the process, though. Cleveland sent Utah Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton (via sign-and-trade), 2022 first-round pick Ochai Agbaji, three future first-round picks, and two pick swaps. The Jazz did make out pretty well with that package.
Having said that, so did the Cavs, as they landed Mitchell, an ultra-versatile shot creator and shooter, and in this now-past season, he had a career year.
In the 2022-23 regular season, he had career-highs in points per game and true shooting percentage with marks of 28.3 and 61.4, respectively. He broke Cleveland’s single-season record for three-pointers made with 245 as well, and Mitchell was named All-NBA for the first time in his six seasons, making All-NBA Second Team in the process.
Unfortunately, Mitchell and the Cavs did not have the postseason run they were hoping for. Cleveland lost in five games to the Knicks, and Mitchell himself shot only 28.9 percent from three in the series, because of him going just five-of-24 (20.8 percent ) from there in the closing games. In those last three contests, Mitchell had 15 assists but also 15 turnovers, and Cleveland nearly lost each game by double digits.
It was a bitter end to what was a promising season for the Cavaliers, as they got back to the postseason for the first time since 2018, and got the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. Cleveland secured its first playoff berth without LeBron James on the roster since 1998 in the process, and with the Cavs still being a young team, it was a stepping stone.
In this offseason to this point, it’s been nice to see them address their shooting needs with moves to bring in Georges Niang and Max Strus, too, and both should help Mitchell, Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, among others.
But make no mistake, from here, it’s about making waves in the postseason for this Cleveland team. The pressure is on this group to respond next year then, and if not, the move for Mitchell will not be validated.
That being said, even with the Mitchell-New York chatter, and with his love for his hometown, Mitchell has continually stressed how he wants to win. He’s seemingly still fully on-board with these Cavs, and has shown his love for Cleveland and his teammates, and he knows how much Koby Altman and company value him.
Those things make it seem unrealistic to believe that Cleveland could potentially move Mitchell soon.
Despite that, on a recent episode of The Hoop Collective podcast, Tim Bontemps of ESPN emphasized how he doesn’t ever see Mitchell signing a contract extension with the Cavaliers, and stamped that by saying he doesn’t think there’s “any chance” Mitchell will do so. Bontemps took it a step further, and said the Cavs should “just trade him now,” to ensure they’d receive ample value in return; here’s more on the soundbite, via New York Basketball.
Naturally, many will probably hop on that train, but the reality is, Cleveland didn’t go out and trade for Mitchell for one playoff opportunity. Let’s not freak out here, folks.
The Cavs brought in Donovan Mitchell for plenty of bites at the apple, not just one.
Bontemps is not seemingly alone in that thought process, based on reports/rumors since when the Cavaliers lost to the Knicks nearly three months ago. As we’ve mentioned, the Knicks-Mitchell rumors are not going to go away, either, and the chatter will likely be there.
That said, Mitchell has been fully bought-in with the Cavaliers since being dealt to them, and it’s not as if he’s not been a terrific teammate. He was with plenty of the guys at Vegas Summer League to support the Wine and Gold’s Summer team in their run to a SL title, and Mitchell is clearly on-board with Cleveland’s offseason additions.
To reiterate, though, the Cavs have to rebound next season, and they have to perform better in the 2024 Playoffs. That much is true, and Mitchell himself has to play up to standard, too, and he’ll be looking to have a far better showing than this last time out.
Now, realistically, it’s no secret that the Cavaliers have to have a legitimate playoff run this next season to come to be more of a selling point for Mitchell to sign a long-term extension, and their offseason moves so far should help Mitchell, Darius Garland and Evan Mobley. Max Strus and Georges Niang should give Cleveland much more shooting pop and ideally, that should have a positive impact in the playoffs.
Overall, however, while it’s reasonable for Bontemps to not foresee a scenario where Mitchell signs an extension with the Cavs, if Mitchell makes All-NBA again next season, making him supermax-eligible, and Cleveland say, makes the Eastern Conference Finals, maybe he ends up doing so. It wouldn’t be surprising then.
The Cavaliers getting that far might be lofty to some, but that’s not outside the realm of possibility, if the young guys take a step forward, and Mobley takes the leap offensively. Time will tell on that front.
But what is certain is that when the Cavs made the deal for Mitchell, there were looking at having several bites at the apple in acquiring a star in Mitchell. He’s fresh off an All-NBA campaign, and even with it costing a bunch to get him, the impact was still felt; this team just has to respond their next go-round in the playoffs.
If they do so, plenty of the narrative might be changed, even with the hometown and big market connection for Mitchell. Winning speaks volumes, and even with the Knicks on the upswing themselves, the Cavs still have a terrific young core, and they’ve bolstered their shooting.
If they have a deep playoff run in 2024, that’d be a great selling point for Mitchell to sign on long-term, prior to the 2025 offseason, when he currently is set to have a player option for 2025-26.
If they flame out again next postseason, then will come the obvious Mitchell trade rumors and the talk of them trying to recoup some assets. But they didn’t acquire him for one postseason chance.