Grade the Trade: Cavaliers' Donovan Mitchell joins West contender in new proposal

Will Donovan Mitchell's Cavaliers tenure end if they flame out again?
Cleveland Cavaliers v Orlando Magic - Game Three
Cleveland Cavaliers v Orlando Magic - Game Three / Rich Storry/GettyImages
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After two solid wins against the Orlando Magic to begin the 2024 NBA Playoffs, Donovan Mitchell and the Cleveland Cavaliers have been blown out twice as the Magic tied the series 2-2 after four games.

Since the Cavaliers brought Mitchell to town, media and onlookers have suggested his time with the team could be shorter than expected. While with the Utah Jazz, Mitchell was loyal to the city and fanbase, but there has always been a growing narrative the Conneticut native would like to play for his hometown New York Knicks. Though the Knicks seem to be out of the Mitchell sweepstakes, a bigger market team and established contender may be in Mitchell's cards if the Cavaliers flame out in another early playoff loss.

Whether Mitchell explicit requests or a trade or the Cavaliers cannot come to terms on a contract extension with the superstar, this summer could hold major implications for the future of the franchise. Mitchell has led the Cavaliers to two straight playoff appearances while earning two more All-Star selections for himself and his first All-NBA team last year. Mitchell's value as a star has not only maintained, but it has risen as his play and overall impact has grown with the Cavs.

Even with Mitchell's development and leadership, the Cavaliers have continually lost their determination once the playoffs roll around. After a horrid Game 4 performance in Orlando, the Cleveland fanbase's belief in the team wilted. Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff has lost the faith from the fans, and many believe this will be Mitchell's last postseason with Cleveland if they cannot outlast the Magic and make a strong push in Round Two.

Right now, though, the Cavaliers need to stay focused on the playoffs. A Mitchell trade is undoubtedly in the back of everyone's mind, especially if they go down 2-3 in the series after Tuesday. Still, trade rumors and speculation mean nothing until Mitchell asks to leave or refuses to sign an extension ahead of a Player Option in 2025 that could let him leave for nothing.

Mitchell's trade destinations are limited

Mitchell himself has not had his best series, but his reputation as a playoff performer and superstar shows the potential era-defining talent he could have for a contending team. Few teams have the cap space or trade assets to acquire Mitchell without losing all of their depth or draft capital. The Cavaliers faced a similar fate when bringing Mitchell to Cleveland in 2022, giving up the rest of their first-round draft picks of the 2020's alongside numerous talented young players.

If the Cavs crumble in the postseason again, their lack of assets to upgrade could push them to make the decision to cut Mitchell's tenure with the squad short. While Mitchell has not publicly stated any distrust in the franchise or desire to leave, the Cavaliers may recognize this summer that they tried to make the leap to the top too soon after Darius Garland's breakout season and Evan Mobley's historic campaign.

In the case of a Mitchell trade, the Cavaliers would need a partner who can provide a player who fits Mobley and Garland's timeline along with a healthy sum of draft capital. Trading Mitchell two seasons after acquiring him will leave a stain on the Cavaliers' recent history, but adding a young player with star potential and hopeful draft picks would likely put the Cavs in a better position in the long-term than where they were before the Mitchell deal in 2022.

One young but talented team stands among the rest as the best possible trade partner for Cleveland while also offering Mitchell a landing spot where he could instantly succeed and compete for the Finals.