Losing Lauri Markkanen was a mistake
As part of the Donovan Mitchell trade to Cleveland, the Utah Jazz received 7-foot-tall forward Lauri Markkanen. In the 2021-22 season, Markkanen started for the Cavaliers at the small forward position and helped reshape Cleveland’s image as a competitive team in the Eastern Conference.
The Cavaliers traded Markkanen one year after trading for him from Chicago. in his season with Cleveland, Markkanen averaged 14.8 points on a 35.8 3-point percentage and grabbed 5.7 rebounds per game.
In his first season with Utah, Markkanen earned his first All-Star appearance and averaged a career-high of 25.7 points, shooting 39.2 percent from 3-point range. In addition, Markkanen’s rebounding went up to 8.6 per game, and he won the 2022-23 Most Improved Player award.
This is not to say the Cavs should not have traded for Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell had what was arguably his best season yet in his career with the Cavaliers. He set a single-game franchise record with 71 points versus the Chicago Bulls. Spida Mitchell also was voted to the All-NBA Second Team for the first time in his career.
In a redo, the Cavaliers probably do not offer Markkanen in the deal, though. Cleveland’s worst weakness last season was their poor perimeter presence. Trading other players instead of Markkanen would have given the Cavs the floor spacing so desperately needed.
Keeping Markkanen in the trade likely means parting ways with one or both of Jarrett Allen and Isaac Okoro, two players who have equally helped Cleveland’s recent success. Markkanen would have certainly not had the opportunity to develop as much as he did in Utah, as both Mitchell and Darius Garland would have orchestrated the offense the majority of possessions.
Lauri’s fit in Cleveland would have been perfect, nonetheless. Maybe Utah never accepts a trade without Markkanen. In that case, it’s worth it.
But, in hindsight, Markkanen might be the missing piece for the Cavaliers going forward. Losing that is not easy to ignore.