NBA Rumors: Cavaliers are keeping one guard, shopping another

Cleveland Cavaliers v Miami Heat
Cleveland Cavaliers v Miami Heat / Rich Storry/GettyImages

Without Darius Garland and Evan Mobley for extended periods due to injuries, the Cleveland Cavaliers' rise to prominence seemed to be quickly crashing down. Some recent reporting, however, suggests the team has a commitment to the current core and specific plans for the trade deadline.

Amid a slow start to the 2023-24 NBA season, the Cavaliers continually have battled just to remain out of the Play-In Tournament and in the top six spots of the Eastern Conference. After their first playoff run without Lebron James since 2018, the Cavs cannot find their footing with a non-stop barrage of injuries to key players. Most recently, both Darius Garland and Evan Mobley were announced to be out of action for at least the next 4-6 and 6-8 weeks, respectively.

Will the Cavaliers be shopping Donovan Mitchell?

Following the news, All-NBA guard Donovan Mitchell's future with Cleveland quickly came into question. When reporters hounded Mitchell for a response to his future after the first game without his co-stars, Mitchell confirmed his commitment to the Cavaliers, though he did not comment on a future extension. Regardless of his personal loyalty to his current team, the NBA world buzzed with trade gossip and potential suitors for the All-Star.

Cleveland acquired Mitchell in a blockbuster trade deal in September 2022 after an offseason in which many believed it was only a matter of time until the Utah Jazz sent Mitchell to the New York Knicks, his hometown team. In his first year with the Cavaliers, Mitchell broke the franchise single-game scoring record with 71 points against the Chicago Bulls and became the fifth player in team history to be named to an All-NBA team.

In his second season, Donovan Mitchell is averaging a career high in assists (5.5), rebounds (5.6) and steals (1.8) and is on track for another All-Star appearance and possibly a second straight All-NBA selection. Despite his personal accolades and effort, the Cavaliers are wildly more inefficient than last season and have slipped from their prowess as a definitive top Eastern team from a season prior.

These struggles come largely due to injuries, making Garland's and Mobley's absences another brutal blow to the Cavs. Since the news, Cleveland has sustained a three-game winning streak at home, including a win against the Utah Jazz on December 20 without Mitchell as well.

Nonetheless, NBA media is recognizing the downward trend of Cleveland's efficiency and the possibility that their current roster construction is doomed for failure. ESPN insider Brian Windhorst suggested the Cavs should explore the trade market for Mitchell on his podcast The Hoop Collective, though he did not confirm Cleveland has any plans for it.

Most recently, however, the Cavs are reportedly firm in their belief that Mitchell can thrive in Cleveland and are instead looking elsewhere for roster changes. Per Jake Fischer of Yahoo! News, the Cavaliers front office feels no pressure to find a deal for Mitchell. Team officials believe the injuries will open up opportunities for their role players to shine, namely Craig Porter, Jr. and Sam Merrill.

""The Cavaliers, though, are not prepared to consider that exit strategy. Cleveland officials have maintained a commitment to this core of four All-Star talents, according to league sources, even with all the incessant chatter among rival executives that Mitchell will inevitably bolt when he can reach the unrestricted market in 2025""

Jake Fischer, Yahoo! Sports

All news is currently pointing to the Cavaliers remaining steadfast in their current core. Mitchell still has another season guaranteed under contract in 2024-25, followed by a Player Option for the '25-26 season. While his tenure in Cleveland may not extend past this offseason, the team's current focus is seemingly on a late season push into the postseason.

Although the Cavs stayed silent at least year's trade deadline, they do not appear to be in the same mindset this time. Whether they make a drastic change or make moves around the edges, this Cavaliers roster is actively looking for ways to grow this year.

What do the Cavaliers do with Ricky Rubio and others?

If the Cavaliers are intent on keeping Mitchell around, the goal remains the same: put complementary pieces around him and continue developing their young stars.

In the 2023 offseason, Cleveland prioritized floor spacing and wing depth, adding Max Strus and Georges Niang to the ranks. While Strus and Niang have improved the team's overall depth and shooting, their disappointing record and inconsistency on both ends of the court leaves room for improvement.

Fischer noted that the Cavs are committed to their core four of Mitchell, Garland, Mobley and Allen. Additionally, though, Fischer reported that Cavs center Jarrett Allen will receive plenty of interest on the trade market this year, especially from the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans were confirmed as a prospective trading partner for Allen in the summer, though no deal materialized. If the Cavaliers are ready for a major pivot at the deadline, Allen's name will surely remain in the rumor mill.

Otherwise, Cleveland has reportedly begun discussion potential goodbyes with veteran point guard Ricky Rubio. Rubio had a career resurgence with the Cavs in the 2021-22 season, but he suffered a season-ending knee injury. The following year, Rubio could not return to his former value and eventually fell out of Cleveland's rotation. In the summer, Rubio announced he would step away from basketball indefinitely for personal reasons.

With the Cavaliers, Rubio is still on their cap sheet for over $6 million this season and over at least $4 million next year. With Cleveland's desire to compete for a deep playoff push, Fischer reported that the Cavs are hoping to find a trade partner to take Rubio's contract. Fischer cites his salary slot as "too valuable" for a team with Cleveland's hopes for the year. The Cavs are searching for a respectable way to part ways with Rubio after his contributions as a team leader and veteran guard in the recent past.

Next. Lineups the Cavaliers can utilize without Garland and Mobley. Lineups the Cavaliers can utilize without Garland and Mobley. dark

The Cavaliers will not expect to see Garland's return until at least mid-January, and Mobley will likely only return some time after the trade deadline. Although their current mindset is to continue building around the current core, a mid-season slide in the standings without Garland and Mobley could drastically shift Cleveland's objectives before the February 8 deadline.