CLEVELAND (AP) — Donovan Mitchell heads east.
The All-Star guard is heading for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who acquired one of the NBA’s top scorers in a blockbuster hit with the Utah Jazz on Thursday, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.
Cleveland will send guard Collin Sexton, forward Lauri Markkanen and rookie guard Ochai Agbaji along with three unprotected first-round picks to the Jazz, said the person, speaking on condition of anonymity as it has yet to be approved by the league.
ESPN was the first to report Mitchell’s departure from Utah.
Sexton, who played in just 11 games last season before undergoing knee surgery, will sign a $72 million four-year deal as part of a sign-and-trade deal with Utah, his agent Rich Paul confirmed for AP.
There had been speculation for months that Mitchell would be moved, and it appeared that the New York Knicks were the frontrunner for him. But when talks with Utah broke down, Cleveland jumped in and general manager Koby Altman added a player capable of pushing the Cavs into the title fight.
Cleveland has not made the playoffs since 2018, when LeBron James led the Cavs to their fourth straight final.
The 6-foot-1 Mitchell can take over a game, and he’ll give Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff a player to work his attack through, as well as another late-game option.
The Cavs are also giving up unprotected first-round picks in 2025, 2027 and 2029 and swapping picks in 2026 and 2028, the person said.
Mitchell, 25, a three-time All-Star in five seasons with Utah, is one of the league’s elite backcourts and his signing could push the Cavs, who won 44 games last season — an improvement from 22 games — with a youngster. core, one of the top teams in the fraught Eastern Conference.
Mitchell, who averaged 25.9 points per game last season, will pair up with All-Star point guard Darius Garland in Cleveland. He will also play with All-Star center Jarett Allen and forward Evan Mobley, who had a strong rookie season averaging 15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks.
Mitchell signed a $163 million five-year contract in 2020 and is under contract through the 2026 season.
Cleveland has also locked up Garland and Allen on long-term deals.
Sexton, 23, hoped to make a comeback this season with the Cavs, who were unable to secure an extension with him last season. He was a restricted free agent this summer, but there was little market for him.
Sexton is a proven goalscorer (averaging 24.3 in 2020), but became expendable for Cleveland due to Garland’s development and the club’s talented frontline.
The 7-foot Markkanen averaged 14.8 points and 5.7 rebounds in his first season with the Cavs, who made the play-in round last season before losing to Brooklyn and Atlanta.
Agbaji was drafted by Cleveland with the number 14 overall pick this year after helping Kansas win a national championship.
This is the second major trade during this off-season for Utah, which began rebuilding in July by trading All-Star center Rudy Gobert to Minnesota.
The Mitchell trade gives Utah even more leverage. The Jazz now have at least 13 first-round picks, plus the two swaps that were part of this deal, across the next seven concepts. The Jazz currently have three first-round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029.
But the Jazz are now starting again, in so many ways.
The Utah re-do began in early June when Quin Snyder — who had led the Jazz to six consecutive playoffs but never made them through the second round — decided to end his eight-year coaching career.
The final straw may have been how this past season started promisingly before it fizzles out. Utah started 7-1 and was 26-9 at one point, but only went 25-28 after January 1.
Utah eventually hired Will Hardy to coach, although there was still speculation at the time as to whether the Jazz would break through Mitchell and Gobert’s 1-2 punch. Now they are both gone.
The relationship between Mitchell and Gobert was clearly tense at times, going back at least to the beginning of the pandemic, when Gobert became the first NBA player to test positive for COVID-19 and Mitchell tested positive a day later.
They are now getting a fresh start elsewhere and the Jazz is in full swing with a rebuild – just like Cleveland was not long ago.
AP NBA writer Tim Reynolds contributed from Miami.
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