The days leading into Christmas Day are a flurry of activity across the country. Last-minute shopping, the baking of Christmas cookies, packing to visit family or furiously cleaning to host them. There is generally not a lot of relaxing happening this time of year.
It's the same in the NBA, except instead of settling down after Christmas Day, the trade rumors will only pick up in frequency and intensity for another six weeks leading into the NBA Trade Deadline on Thursday, February 8th. Not to be left out, the Cleveland Cavaliers are right in the mix of the rumor maelstrom.
There is chatter about whether the Cavaliers will shop Donovan Mitchell to get ahead of his free agency, and about whether they will move Jarrett Allen to break up their two-big alignment. More realistically, however, the Cavs are likely to be looking on the market for depth to weather the injury storm currently surrounding them.
Darius Garland and Evan Mobley are each on the shelf after undergoing surgery; Garland is expected back in a month, while Mobley could miss up to two. The Cavs have done an admirable job of treading water without them, but they could look for inexpensive trade targets to help them survive without two key players over the next few weeks.
The Cavaliers need inexpensive point guard help
While Mobley is expected to miss more time, the position that the Cavaliers are expected to address is point guard. In addition to Garland's absence, the Cavs are playing without Ty Jerome, who suffered a severe ankle injury in the second game of the season and hasn't played since.
Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports also reported that veteran point guard Ricky Rubio, who has been away from the team all year for mental health reasons, is not expected to resume his NBA career; no reinforcements are coming from that direction.
That leaves Cleveland with no point guard on their primary roster available to play in games. Donovan Mitchell has been starting at point guard and doing a solid job, but he is not a natural at the position. Caris LeVert has likewise been handling the ball and getting the offense into its sets. Undrafted rookie two-way guard Craig Porter Jr. has stepped up and is playing a large rotation role.
Point guard is therefore an obvious place for the Cavaliers to address on the trade market. The Cavs don't want to make a massive swing, as they have limited assets and want the flexibility to make an upgrade elsewhere on the roster down the line. Garland will be back before too long, and with he and Mitchell starting there won't be many rotation minutes available to whoever is added.
Which players could the Cavaliers target? There have been a number of names tossed around in the rumor mill, from Delon Wright to Cory Joseph to Vasilije Micić. None of those players has had any reporting behind them to link them to Cleveland.
That changed this week, as the aforementioned Jake Fischer, an NBA Insider plugged into the league as well as anyone in the business, identified a target for the Cleveland Cavaliers on the trade market: the Sacramento Kings' Davion Mitchell.
Mitchell, in his third season after he was drafted No. 9 overall in the 2021 NBA Draft, has fallen out of the rotation for the Sacramento Kings. After playing 27.7 minutes per game as a rookie, he is playing just 13.5 minutes per game this year, averaging 3.7 points and 2.0 assists, down from 11.5 points and 4.2 assists two seasons ago.
The Kings have elected to prioritize two-way wing Keon Ellis in the rotation to fill Mitchell's role of on-ball defender, and as Mitchell heads toward a summer where he will be eligible for an extension, it's widely expected that Sacramento would be open to deal the young guard.
Fischer went a step forward, specifically naming Mitchell as a player that the Cavaliers could pursue on the trade market to give them depth at point guard as they look to keep pace in the Eastern Conference in the absence of Darius Garland, Ty Jerome and Ricky Rubio.
How Davion Mitchell would help
Davion Mitchell's nickname coming into the NBA was "Off Night" because whatever player he checked was going to have one of their worst nights of the year. That was the role he played in college in leading the Baylor Bears to a National Championship, and it led to him being drafted in the Top 10 of the 2021 NBA Draft.
Mitchell has delivered on the defensive end of that promise. He dials up the intensity in checking whatever offensive player he is tasked with guarding, be that a swift guard or a larger wing. Even at 6'2" he gets into an opponent and forces them into mistakes.
The issue for Mitchell staying in the rotation for the Kings has been his offense. He is a career 31.3 percent shooter from deep, and his steady passing ability is less valuable in the Kings' motion offense that they installed under head coach Mike Brown. It's no coincidence that Mitchell played a significant role as a rookie and then has been marginalized the past two seasons under the new offensive system.
Mitchell's scoring and shooting deficiencies are the reason that no team will be targeting him as a starter, and perhaps not even as a clear-cut rotation player. That gives the Cavaliers an advantage in bidding for Mitchell; they likely won't be outbidding anyone to add him.
The Cavaliers don't need a long-term answer at the position; they simply need someone who can step in, run the offense, set up shooters, and not compromise the defense. Mitchell would be an excellent fit for that role, and if he plays well he could earn himself a long-term roster spot in Cleveland.
As a trade target, Davion Mitchell is an intriguing player to keep an eye on. The Cavaliers are said to be considering the young guard, and in lieu of other options who are both effective and affordable, it would not be surprising to see them make a move in the coming days.