Grading blockbuster Donovan Mitchell trade to spark Cavaliers youth movement

New Orleans Pelicans v Cleveland Cavaliers
New Orleans Pelicans v Cleveland Cavaliers / Jason Miller/GettyImages
1 of 3

Whether it comes before the February 8 trade deadline or the coming offseason, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be screening endless phone calls if Donovan Mitchell is on the trade block.

During the first Donovan Mitchell trade saga from the Utah Jazz, the NBA world expected to see him down the New York blue and orange. Instead, the perennial All-Star ended up in Cleveland, reportedly celebrating the blockbuster September news by suddenly racing around a golf course. Since then, Mitchell has led the Cavs to their first playoff appearance since 2018 and broke both the franchise single-game scoring record and franchise single-season three-pointers made records.

Still, the Cleveland sky is under a looming cloud of a potential trade storm for Mitchell, as his pending contract extension could spell troubles if he chooses not to remain with the Cavaliers long-term. After ending last season with the team's first non-LeBron 50-win season since James' draft night, the Cavs have had a rocky season due to injury and a redundant roster.

The culmination of Cleveland's shortcomings has created a plethora of trade rumors around Mitchell for both the coming trade deadline and the following offseason. Right now, the Cavaliers are battling their way up the Eastern Conference standings without two of their four best players, even nearing postseason homecourt advantage.

With all their recent success, the rumblings of a dramatic trade season have quieted. ESPN insider Brian Windhorst has all but confirmed the Cavs' intent on staying the course, especially after Garland and Mobley fell to injury, in his recent interview with ESPN Cleveland. He added, however, that the Cavs are at a crossroads and are fully prepared for major shifts this summer if Mitchell does not sign his extension.

The unsung perfect suitor for Donovan Mitchell and the Cavaliers

In the case that Mitchell believes Cleveland is not his long-term home, many may expect the Knicks to re-enter the race for Spida. After their recent acquisition of OG Anunoby, the Knicks will likely not mount an all-out pursuit for Mitchell again. This leaves the playing field for Mitchell wide open, and the perfect suitor may be hiding just across the conference borderlines.

When it comes to emerging contenders, the New Orleans Pelicans have long been considered a sleeping giant, only one piece away from being the next Western powerhouse. With a potential era-defining player in Zion Williamson and a wealth of young talent and trade assets, New Orleans could easily offer the Cavaliers the most competitive offer in any trade discussions.

The Cavaliers exchanged young talents in Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton and rookie Ochai Agbaji alongside every first-round pick at Cleveland's disposal in return for Donovan Mitchell in 2022. While they will search for an equal or better price tag for Mitchell themselves, they will likely prioritize proven young players who can develop and win next to Garland and Mobley rather than a stockpile of future draft picks.

What, then, can the Pelicans offer the Cavs to build their West contender and give the Cleveland fanbase hope for their own squad?