CLEVELAND (AP) — With one bold, unexpected move, the Cleveland Cavaliers significantly raised their profile in the Eastern Conference.
They are back in the title chase.
The Cavs officially made their acquisition of three-time All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell in a trade with Utah on Saturday, and can begin to figure out ways to best integrate his talents into their young core.
Considered outsiders to land the dynamic off-season player for much of this season, the Cavs dove in and put together a package that the Jazz, which had offers from several other teams, could not resist.
Cleveland sent guard Collin Sexton, forward Lauri Markkanen and rookie guard Ochai Agbaji to Utah, along with unprotected first-round draft picks in 2025, 2027 and 2029. The teams will also trade their first-round drafting rights in 2026 and 2028.
Sexton, who was a restricted free agent, signed a $72 million four-year deal as part of the package, his Klutch Sports agent Rich Paul told the Associated Press on Thursday.
By adding Mitchell, the Cavs have at least entered the conversation to compete in the congested East, where Boston, Brooklyn, Miami, Milwaukee and Philadelphia are all considered championship-worthy.
“The acquisition of Donovan Mitchell presented us with an incredible opportunity to bring one of the NBA’s most dynamic young All-Stars to Cleveland,” said Koby Altman, the Cavaliers’ president of basketball operations. “As a 25-year-old already a special and proven talent, Donovan brings with him a competitive mentality that fits organically with the core group of this team.
“We’re excited to see the impact someone of Donovan’s caliber can have for the Cavaliers with his ability to score basketball as well as play for his teammates.”
For Utah, the massive breakdown of the grid continues. The Mitchell trade is the second big one this summer. Utah also shared All-Star center and defensive power Rudy Gobert to Minnesota in July for a slew of draft picks.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Mitchell-Gobert tandem made the Jazz a team to fear in the Western Conference. Now Utah is starting over with a new coach and at least 13 first-round picks over the next seven years.
In Cleveland, which had a team with 22 wins two years ago, rebuilding has been completed for a franchise that was used to winning when LeBron James was around. Mitchell may have been the missing piece.
The 25-year-old gives Cleveland the type of megastar it takes to win it all. Mitchell is a fearless driver, explosive goalscorer and scorer. He is a player who gives me the ball in the crunch that takes his game and that of his teammates to the next level.
He could also be the elder statesman in a projected starting lineup that includes All-Star point guard Darius Garland (22 years old), All-Star center Jarrett Allen (24), forward Evan Mobley (21) and Isaac Okoro (21).
Although the Cavs improved their winning total by 22 games last season and qualified for the play-in-game, their biggest flaw was not having someone who could score consistently and a stagnant attack.
The Cavs tried to address the situation by trading small forward Caris LeVert on the February deadline. However, he was held back by injury and struggled to fit into JB Bickerstaff’s system.
Mitchell has averaged 23.9 points in his five pro seasons and will play alongside Garland, who improved across the board in his third year. It’s a smaller backcourt—both Mitchell and Garland are listed at 6-foot-1—so there may be some defensive issues, but with Allen and Mobley on patrol, the Cavs have proven rim protection.
Cleveland has not made the playoffs since James left for the second time in 2018, ending the Cavs’ four-year run to the finals. They’ve been patient to put things in place to have another shot at a title.
Mitchell brings them closer to one.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports