Would the Cavs say yes to this trade?
There is an initial question to be asked with any Donovan Mitchell trade idea, and that’s whether the Knicks should trade Mitchell this summer, two years out from his free agency. We won’t hash that out here; for the sake of this discussion, we’re assuming the Cavaliers have decided to field trade offers and are open to moving him for the right offer.
With that stage set we can seek to evaluate this package as a return for Mitchell. The trade market has reset after last summer’s overly inflated prices; it’s unlikely that the Cavaliers could get back the same return as they sent out for Mitchell. Even so, this deal comes somewhat close in terms of total value: three rotation players and three first-round picks is a substantial trade package.
RJ Barrett has had an up-and-down start to his career, but he is a young two-way wing under contract for four more seasons and can step into the starting lineup at the 3. Quentin Grimes would likely start at shooting guard, or at least enter a competition with Max Strus for the spot. Isaiah Hartenstein is a worthy low-end starter who would return to the Cavs in a backup role.
That’s three solid rotation players and potentially two starters out of the deal. Grimes in particular looks like the perfect 3-and-D player to fit into a contending team, and in a different system Barrett could take another step forward. This is an intriguing return.
The downside is that it’s unlikely to yield an All-Star player, as the picks would be unlikely to fall in the lottery and it’s a longshot for Barrett to reach that level. It’s a tough move to deal a second-team All-NBA player and not get back a top-line asset of some sort.
Making this trade indicates a lot of confidence in Darius Garland to be the offensive engine and an acknowledgment that a more balanced roster helps them win now. That’s not a terrible path to take, and this group could ultimately be better equipped to win in the playoffs than last year’s Cavs. It’s more likely that they’ll miss having another elite creator and the offense struggles to score at the highest levels.
It’s a reasonable trade package, and one the Cavaliers would strongly consider were they to put Mitchell on the block.