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3 bold predictions for the Cavs’ 2022-23 NBA season after Donovan Mitchell trade

Cleveland Cavaliers, Donovan Mitchell

The Cleveland Cavaliers just blew up the preseason after trading for star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell.

In the midst of the Collin Sexton contract impasse, the Cavs had pulled the trigger on a deal sending Sexton to the Utah Jazz along with Lauri Markkanen, Ochair Agbaji, three unprotected first-round picks, and two pick swaps.

The Jazz, meanwhile, agreed to trade Mitchell to the Cavs.

So Donovan Mitchell is now heading east, just not as far as New York fans were hoping. As part of the transaction, Sexton, a restricted free agent, will receive a four-year, $72 million contract.

On the one hand, there is clearly a large corps of talent being shipped to Utah. On the other hand, this deal provides the Cavs with one of the most potent backcourts in the league. I mean, Cleveland fans will see Mitchell team up with Darius Garland on a nightly basis. How whack is that, eh?

Here are three predictions for the Cleveland Cavaliers after they acquired Donovan Mitchell.

3. Cavs won’t miss those picks

Draft selection aficionados might double down and say that this was a horrible deal. That’s just not true. The Cavs acquired a top-25 player with three years remaining on his contract. Did they overpay? Maybe, but not more than what the current market demands (also thanks to the Utah Jazz).

The big win for the Cavs is that they didn’t have to give up any of their All-Star-level players. They essentially have three bona fide All-Stars with another potential one (Evan Mobley) on the up-and-up. And they now rid themselves of the Sexton contract issues.

Yes, the Cavs sent a significant amount of draft capital in the exchange. Two pick swaps and three unprotected first-round picks are not insignificant. But consider this for a moment.

The unprotected first-round selection in 2027 or 2029 might be quite valuable, sure. However, it’s also feasible that all of those choices are in the 20s. The Jazz’s chances of getting All-Star-level talent in the 20s are just not high. Remember that, unlike football, the great majority of excellent NBA players are picked in the top ten, if not the top five.

Now, if the Cavs were an aging club on a championship timer, this deal would be devastating. But they aren’t. After a little taste of victory last season, they are young, incredibly talented, hungry, and now the deepest they’ve been since LeBron left in 2018.

Again, the Cavs’ core is fairly young. Darius Garland’s age is 22. Mobley is 21 years old. Jarrett Allen is 24 years old. Mitchell will turn 26 in a few days. They are all entering their physical prime all at relatively the same time. Wow, right?

You must also examine the wider forces at work here. How else could Cleveland have improved? At the end of the day, this Cavs roster is ahead of schedule, and they are in very good shape.

2. The Donovan Mitchell fit is solid but imperfect

Donovan Mitchell is an explosive scorer, which is precisely what Cleveland lacked last season paired with Darius Garland. At the trade deadline, the Cavs attempted to replace Garland with Caris LeVert. This move to get Mitchell should prove to be more successful.

Yes, the fit isn’t ideal. Mitchell and Garland will have difficulty defending. It’s a pretty smallish backcourt.

Still, on paper, they appear to be a better scoring tandem than, say, Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. And, in terms of defense, you know what should assist this duo? Instead of just one Rudy Gobert protecting the rim, the Cavs have two in Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. That frontcourt should help to cover up some of the mistakes made by the backcourt (and there might be many). At the same time, both Garland and Mitchell are young enough to grow on that end of the court.

Mitchell’s pull-up three-point shooting and pick-and-roll ability should help the Cavs’ offense. As long as he and Garland commit to spending less time with the ball in their hands, their shooting abilities should allow them to play off one other fluidly.

Of course, Mitchell isn’t a flawless star, but guys like him don’t come along very often. Putting together this much youthful talent for a small-market team is a worthy risk. Remember also that the Cavs have no clear play in the free agency market. As such, it’s arguably a safer bet to go all-in on a 26-year-old three-time All-Star than, say, a 30-year-old center with uncertain offensive effect.

1. Cavs make the playoffs

Although this transaction does not necessarily make the Cavs a true title contender, it takes them considerably closer than any other feasible move they could have made. Now, this team should be a playoff favorite alongside the Hawks, Nets, Raptors, Heat, 76ers, Bucks, and Celtics. Maybe the Cavs might need to go through the play-in tournament again, but no way they’re losing now.

Again, Mitchell just changes the equation in northeast Ohio. The former University of Louisville standout is a three-time All-Star, NBA Slam Dunk Contest winner, and was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 2018. He has a bright future and will play an important role in the Cavs’ foreseeable future, too.

The Cavs now have a legitimate chance not just to make the playoffs, but also to win a series. Mitchell was a leader for the Jazz and one of the NBA’s premier scoring threats. He guided the Jazz to repeated playoff visits, and there was a point when Mitchell and the Jazz had the best regular-season record in the NBA.

Could the Cavs make it to the conference finals? Some things may have to fall into place, and some teams may have to knock each other out, but it doesn’t seem out of the question. In the end, as far as home run swings go, this is a good one for Cleveland.

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