Donovan Mitchell Trade: Can Cavs Become Contenders?

Written By Mo Nuwwarah on September 1, 2022
Donovan Mitchell trade

After months of Knicks-centric speculation on the future of Donovan Mitchell, a trade has finally happened, with the star guard dealt to a surprise location. Cleveland has acquired Mitchell in exchange for three players, three unprotected first-round picks and two swaps.

Let’s look at what the trade means for both teams and Mitchell himself.

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Utah Likely Headed For Doormat Status

Utah has now dealt away both former franchise cornerstones. They shipped Rudy Gobert off to Minnesota and now have sent Mitchell to Cleveland.

Here are the players acquired in the Donovan Mitchell trade:

  • F Lauri Markkanen
  • G/F Ochai Agbaji
  • G Collin Sexton

Sexton comes off a serious injury that cost him nearly the entire prior season. Before that, he put together a career year with a 24.3/3.1/4.4 average on 70th percentile scoring efficiency per Cleaning The Glass. Markkanen has been solid, if a bit disappointing since a strong rookie campaign back in 2017-18. Agbaji is an older rookie (22) selected 14th overall out of Kansas.

After sitting around the +2500 range to win the title the past few years, it’s no surprise the Jazz are now extreme longshots. They’re now at the bottom of the barrel in terms of title odds () and will likely make a selection at the top of a 2023 NBA Draft that includes at least two potential franchise players. Teams are salivating to try and build tomorrow’s contenders around Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson. The Jazz have as good a shot as anyone to snag one of them.

Expect an adjusted market win total in the low 20s for Utah once odds settle.

Cavs Title Odds Shorten To +5000 Following Donovan Mitchell Trade

More interesting is what this means for Cleveland. After a surprising run to the play-in this past season, the Cavs have opted to shove their chips in earlier than many expected. Cleveland actually spent much of the season seemingly locked into a playoff position before injuries late in the season caused a slide and cost Evan Mobley Rookie of the Year honors.

Their young core of Mobley, ascendant PG Darius Garland and C Jarrett Allen will all almost certainly remain under contract through 2025-26. Mitchell’s contract also runs through 2025-26, although he has a player option on the final season. That lines him up nicely to mesh with the youngsters and create a clear window of contention.

Most critically, the Cavs made this deal without significantly subtracting from a 44-win team that had the 13th-best efficiency differential in the NBA. A young 44-win team that only figures to get stronger in the coming years. Only Markkanen really contributed to the 2021-22 Cavs, among the players dealt. While he brought efficient scoring to the table, the team defended better with him off the court, and he has a pretty replaceable skillset.

Mitchell brings something entirely new to the table. While not quite the assist maven Garland is, Mitchell has high-volume on-ball scoring that teams generally need in order to build true title contenders. Still just entering his prime at age 25, Mitchell should create an extremely formidable foursome along with the established core. A ball-handling pecking order must get sorted out with Garland, but as long as the team can build chemistry, they could contend.

After opening around 100-to-1 to win the NBA title, Cavs odds have shortened to .

Donovan Mitchell MVP Odds Don’t Budge

Perhaps surprisingly, Mitchell’s odds to win NBA MVP did not see any immediate movement. He opened around 80-to-1 and that’s exactly where he remained in the hours after the trade.

Mitchell has put up some strong stat lines over the years for a team that climbed as high as the No. 1 Western Conference seed in 2020-21. However, he has never placed in the MVP voting nor has he ever garnered placement on one of the three All-NBA teams. Therefore, he has quite a leap to make to becoming MVP.

Still, if the Cavs contend for the title in 2022-23, he’ll have a strong narrative backing him. Not since LeBron James left has this team experienced any playoff success. Mitchell certainly seems to have a better chance in Cleveland than he would have in Utah without Gobert shoring up the defense and keeping the team in the playoff picture.

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Mo Nuwwarah

Mo Nuwwarah got his start in gambling early, making his first sports bet on his beloved Fab Five against the UNC Tar Heels in the 1993 NCAA tournament. He lost $5 to his dad and got back into sports betting years later during a 15-year run in the poker industry. A 2011 journalism graduate from Nebraska-Omaha, he combines those skills with his love of sports and statistics to help bettors make more informed decisions with a focus on pro football, baseball and basketball.

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