The Cleveland Cavaliers had been probably the most nice shock within the NBA final season till the burden of accidents despatched their playoff desires down the tubes. After proudly owning the NBA’s second worst cumulative report over the three seasons that adopted LeBron James’ departure to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Cavs had been on-fire to start out the 2021-2022 marketing campaign, taking the Jap Convention’s third finest report into the All-Star break (which was truly 70 % of the best way by means of the season).
Ultimately the Cavs ran out of fuel thanks largely to a stagnant offense that dearly missed guards Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio, who every suffered season-ending knee accidents. Cleveland would have made the playoffs anyway beneath the NBA’s conventional postseason format, however they had been knocked out within the play-in match by the Atlanta Hawks.
The Cavs already had an incredible factor going for them with two younger All-Stars in Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen, and a freakish 7-footer in final 12 months’s rookie Evan Mobley. Cleveland might have been content material to look at its glorious core develop all through the 2022-2023 season and past with nothing in the best way of actual expectations. As an alternative, the Cavs noticed a chance so as to add a fourth star late on this offseason, and pushed their chips to the middle of the desk to get it achieved.
The Cavs acquired Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz for unprotected first spherical picks in 2025, 2027 and 2029, plus choose swaps in 2026 and 2028. Cleveland included Ochai Agbaji (who they only drafted at No. 14 general within the 2022 draft), Lauri Markkanen, and Sexton to finish the deal.
It’s a steep value to pay for any participant, significantly one who has by no means made an All-NBA crew like Mitchell. It’s a commerce that instantly places strain on the Cavs to contend within the close to future, and limits their future property to enhance the inspiration of the crew shifting ahead. It’s additionally completely value it.
The Cavs out of the blue have a convincing argument for the perfect “large 4” within the NBA. It’s a core that shall be actually good for this upcoming season, and may solely get higher within the two seasons after that with Mitchell nonetheless beneath contract. Whereas it’s daring to label the Cavs — a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs with out LeBron since 1998 — as a real NBA Finals contender earlier than making a playoff look, the expertise base in Cleveland is now spectacular sufficient to compete on the highest ranges of the league if all of it comes collectively.
Right here is why the Cavs’ transfer for Donovan Mitchell ought to imply large issues for Cleveland.
The Cavs have two star gamers with the 2 hardest ability units to search out
Each crew within the NBA desires nice shot creators. Each crew additionally desires two-way large males. The Cavs now have two gamers who can expertly fill each of these roles, and all of them are of their early-to-mid 20s.
Garland emerged into an All-Star level guard final season as a 22-year-old. He’s a beautiful pull-up three-point shooter, and has glorious imaginative and prescient as a passer, ending No. 7 within the league in help charge final 12 months. Garland can be one of many smallest stars within the league (he’s listed at 6’1, 192 kilos), and struggled to create all of the offense for Cleveland final season when Rubio and Sexton went down.
Mitchell is a tremendous complement subsequent to him offensively within the backcourt. Mitchell performed as a “heliocentric” star in Utah with a sky-high utilization charge. He’ll get to separate the creation burden with Garland in Cleveland, and the pairing is made much more efficient as a result of they’re each threats to area the ground and hit threes off the ball. It’s going to extraordinarily laborious for defenses to load up in opposition to each of them — particularly when additionally they have pay main consideration to the 2 7-footers inside.
Allen was one other shock All-Star final season after thriving in his function as a lob catcher, shot blocker, and succesful rebounder and passer for his place. He has as outlined function within the offense: set screens, play from the “dunker’s spot,” and end all the pieces inside above the rim. He’s additionally an excellent defensive large man who can shield the rim whereas largely enjoying drop protection but in addition exhibiting some skill to play different schemes.
Mobley has the potential to be the perfect piece of all. He’s a 7-footer with an unbelievable mixture of agility and ability. Mobley can roam across the courtroom and erase photographs earlier than the opposing offense ever makes an attempt them. He’s simply scratching the floor of his offensive ability set, however he’s proven outstanding flashes as a finisher, mid-range shooter, and passer. He needs to be a future Defensive Participant of the Yr candidate shifting ahead, and it’s completely potential he might in the future contend for MVP. Mobley’s prime might be nonetheless 5 years away, however he was already superior as a rookie. His upside is the most important key to the Cavs’ title desires.
The Cavs don’t want way more to finish the roster
It’s straightforward to take a look at the Cavs and deem that they want a small ahead to finish their beginning lineup. Whereas that’s true, the ability units of their 4 stars ought to make discovering that participant a doable project.
The Cavs don’t want a wing who is superb as a ball handler or passer as a result of Mitchell and Garland test these packing containers. Actually, the Cavs simply want a straight “three and D” model wing that may … hit spot-up threes and defend large wings, lots of whom are stars. That’s not a straightforward participant to search out, but it surely shouldn’t be inconceivable both, whether or not Cleveland is making a commerce (Caris LeVert might now be commerce bait) or attempting to signal a free agent to the mid-level exception in future years.
It’s additionally potential Isaac Okoro turns into that participant. Okoro was taken at No. 5 general within the 2020 draft, and is already an superior defender. The one downside is Okoro hasn’t proven he can take and make threes with quantity but. Final season he shot a powerful 35 % from deep, however solely did it on 2.3 makes an attempt per sport. Cleveland wants the next quantity three-point shooter on the wing, and may prioritize that a part of Okoro’s improvement within the coming years.
All of the items ought to match collectively in Cleveland
I’m traditionally not a fan of groups constructed round two small guards as a result of they battle to carry up defensively within the playoffs. Mitchell’s protection needs to be a serious concern after his pathetic exhibiting defensively within the playoffs final 12 months in opposition to the Mavericks. Garland isn’t large or sturdy sufficient to be a plus defender both.
If two 6-foot-nothing guards are ever going to have the ability to survive deep into the playoffs, although, it’s most likely going to be with two killer 7-footers like Mobley and Allen behind them.
The Cavs had the No. 20 offense within the NBA final season. They had been weighed down by each an absence of ball handlers, and an absence of taking pictures (they completed No. 20 in three-point charge, or share of photographs taken from three-point vary). Mitchell addresses each areas. He’s a high-volume three-point shooter who may create off the dribble.
There’s a number of swing elements in Cleveland over the approaching years:
- Can Mitchell capably discover Mobley and Allen for straightforward buckets inside? Mitchell’s lowly help numbers to Rudy Gobert was highly-publicized in Utah, and it’s unclear if that was due to their private beef, or a gap in Mitchell’s ability set. He’ll definitely have to play “hero ball” much less typically in Cleveland, and that begins with getting his bigs concerned offensively.
- Can the Cavs discover a beginning wing who can take and make threes at quantity whereas additionally being a lockdown defender?
- Can the Cavs construct out the remainder of the bench to enrich their 4 stars?
- Well being can be a priority, however that’s the case for each crew.
Cleveland legitimately has 4 top-40 gamers on the roster now, and that’s a conservative evaluation.
The Cavs’ post-LeBron rebuild has been outstanding. Getting in on the James Harden commerce to choose up Allen was a stroke of genius. Taking Garland at No. 4 within the 2019 draft (a choose I panned on the time) proved to be a superb transfer. They had been fortunate to land the No. 3 choose within the 2021 draft, and even luckier the Houston Rockets handed on Mobley. They had been additionally fortunate the Jazz didn’t settle for an arguably higher bundle for Mitchell earlier within the offseason.
In fact, each NBA contender wants luck to get there. The Cavs had some, however the entrance workplace additionally did a masterful job constructing this crew. It’s nearly unbelievable to think about the Cleveland Cavaliers are this proficient with out LeBron James, but it surely’s true. With Mitchell beneath contract for 3 extra seasons, and Allen, Garland, and Mobley beneath crew management long-term, it’s completely affordable to consider the Cavs could be an NBA Finals contender now and within the close to future.