What a Donovan Mitchell contract extension means for the Cleveland Cavaliers

Philadelphia 76ers v Cleveland Cavaliers
Philadelphia 76ers v Cleveland Cavaliers / Jason Miller/GettyImages

The Donovan Mitchell contract extension rumors are not over, but the conversation has shifted in a more positive direction for the Cleveland Cavaliers in recent weeks.

In a recent podcast appearance with Ryen Rusillo, Cavaliers sharpshooter and long-time Mitchell teammate Georges Niang said he believes Mitchell is in Cleveland for the long haul. Rusillo opened the discussion by commenting that Mitchell's choice to wear a Cavaliers hat on the bench while sidelined with injuries has to be an encouraging sign. Niang was clear that he cannot speak for Mitchell himself, but it seems that Donovan is happy right where he is.

After five seasons with the Utah Jazz, Donovan Mitchell was traded to the Cavaliers in September 2022, joining two All-Stars in Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen. Since then, Mitchell has made the East All-Stars both seasons and was on track for his second All-NBA appearance before falling below the 65-game threshold due to injuries.

The comments from Niang are in stark contrast to repeated dissent from outside commentators with little to no personal knowledge of Mitchell's intentions. With many media members constantly declaring Mitchell would never sign an extension with Cleveland and only wants to be with the New York Knicks, the change in perspective is welcome.

Following Niang, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert added to the conversation with another encouraging statement on Mitchell's future with the team.

""We think he will extend. I think if you listen to him talk, he loves the city. He loves the situation in Cleveland because our players are very young and we’re just kind of putting the core together that he’s clearly the biggest part of.""

Dan Gilbert on Donovan Mitchell's future

Throughout the season, Mitchell has consistently shown devotion to the Cavaliers, posting career numbers in assists and rebounds and continuing his scoring dominance. In just under two seasons, Mitchell established himself as one of the best players ever to dawn the wine and gold, sitting alongside LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. If Niang and Gilbert are correct, keeping Donovan Mitchell in Cleveland sets the franchise up for a long road of success but also requires much more work and improvement going forward.

Donovan Mitchell gives the Cavaliers assurance

Without an extension, the Cavaliers' future blueprint has to account for the possibility of losing Mitchell before they can reach their ceiling. If Cleveland comes to an agreement with Mitchell this summer, the Cavs get a long runway to make confident and bold moves to build a contender. While the Cavaliers have remained among the top teams in the East in the last two seasons, they are still outside the upper echelon of title favorites. With Mitchell guaranteeing a long-term stay in Cleveland, the team can take the next step forward without worry.

Additionally, keeping Mitchell gives the Cavaliers a leader and era-defining superstar. After his first year, Mitchell earned his first All-NBA Team selection and became the first Cavalier with the honors since LeBron James in 2018. As a small market franchise, generational talents such as Mitchell are coveted beyond measure. If Mitchell chooses Cleveland as his home for his prime years, it speaks volumes to the winning culture of the city and organization.

Earlier this year, cleveland.com Cavs insider Chris Fedor reported that Donovan Mitchell proclaimed he's "happy where he's at" after the dramatic rumors at the trade deadline this season. After Darius Garland and Evan Mobley were sidelined with injuries in December, rumors swirled that the Cavaliers had no choice but to put Mitchell on the trade block mid-season. Instead, Mitchell led the Cavs to a tremendous run to the top of the conference and elevated his teammates as a captain and selfless passer.

Signing Mitchel to an extension gives the Cavaliers assurance for their future and helps them plan their next major moves, but it also places pressure on the franchise not to grow comfortable and stagnant.

The Cavaliers have to keep building around Mitchell

Extending Donovan Mitchell is an accomplishment and compliment to the franchise, but it should only be the start. The Cavaliers proved they were willing to actively improve over last offseason, bringing Max Strus and Georges Niang to the roster on long-term deals. Both veterans have made major contributions in their first year, but the Cavs cannot stop there.

While Cleveland is fighting with the top teams in the conference, they are still outside of the highest echelon of Eastern contenders and title favorites. Their youth and injury woes have pushed them outside this conversation. Signing Mitchell to another contract guarantees the Cavaliers can stay in this realm; however, the Cavs would be sorely embarrassed if they never risk anything to take the leap up to the top. Mitchell is ready to win now, meaning Cleveland has to follow suit and find the right star to place next to him. This star might come from within as Evan Mobley grows and develops, or the front office may need to consider shocking changes sooner rather than later.

Regardless of the path the Cavaliers take, Donovan Mitchell lays a foundation and standard for success. When James left Cleveland in 2018, the Cavs entered a free fall and were expected to endure a long rebuild. With Darius Garland and Evan Mobley's ascension, they accelerated their rebuild and capped it off with the blockbuster trade to land Mitchell. The Cavaliers' rapid growth and success signal a willingness to take chances and chase success. Signing Donovan Mitchell to a long-term deal sets the Cavs up to continue their motivated efforts toward another NBA Finals run.

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