CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cavaliers president Kobe Altman was right when he said the Donovan Mitchell deal “is probably the biggest deal in franchise history.”
Three selections from the first round and three players (Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, 2022 first-round pick Ochai Agbaji) to Utah for Mitchell is the largest by current assets. The team made two franchise changes when Cavs acquired Brad Dougherty and Mark Price during the 1986 draft.
But this trade is huge. It is a gamble due to the trading of the first round in the future (2025, 2027 and 2029). Markkanen and Sexton will likely start in Utah.
I asked Altman about the high price tag for Mitchell, the 24-point scorer.
“He’s a 26-year-old star, three times All-Stars,” he said. “It gets so simple, doesn’t it? Basically, my job is to bring the best talent to Cleveland, and I’m sitting next to one of the best players in the world.”
Let’s look In draft case:
1. Altman knows the Cavs probably won’t have a first-round pick in 2023. That pick will go to Indiana in the Caris LeVert deal, assuming the Cavs make the playoffs.
2. For the remainder of the decade, the Cavs will have first-round picks in 2024, 2026 and 2028.
3. Unless they get another pick from the first round, they can’t trade any of those picks due to Ted Stepien’s rule. This prevents the team from not having a senior manager for two consecutive years.
That’s why Altman also admitted that trade “comes with pain.”
But as coach JB Bickerstaff told me after the press conference, “getting Donovan is a no-brainer.”
The Cavs and Drafting team have lost. In the past five years, they have selected Sexton (2018), Darius Garland (2019), Isaac Okoro (2020), Evan Mobley (2021), Agbaji (2022) in the first round.
They also used a first-round pick they got from Milwaukee to trade for Garrett Allen in 2020. Allen and Garland are already All-Stars. They correctly believe that Mobley will soon join them in this distinction.
Mitchell is a three-time star. That’s four major players under the age of 26 or younger.
“We are very young and the schedule is right to bring that level of player in with this group,” Altman said. “I think we got a chance to try and compete against the best in the world.”
It’s time to take the next step
The Cleveland team was 44-38 last season. This was their first win record without LeBron James since 1997-98. Altman wants a solid spot in the playoffs.
“When you simplify that, will Donovan Mitchell make us a better basketball team? – Yes!” Altman said. “How do we do it? You go through the pain of that, but I think we are all really happy and excited about what we can do.”
Bickerstaff was in everything, although he knew he would have to figure out how to play with a pair of 6-foot-1 keepers who love handling the ball. That didn’t work out well with Garland and Sexton, but Mitchell is the top player.
“You add a guy at that level and you start foaming at the mouth,” Bickerstaff told me. “You feel like you have a chance to do something special.”
Altman and Bickerstaff emphasized Mitchell’s character.
“How he carries himself in the community and makes an impact for others, that matters,” Bickerstaff said. “When you don’t have to sacrifice people over talent, you give yourself a chance to build something special.”
“People above talent” means bringing in a talented player with behavior problems. Mitchell is not in this category. He just so happens to be thoughtful, generous, and excited to be with Cleveland.
Games and more
“Donovan has the ability to rise to the occasion and play at the moment,” Bickerstaff said. “How many players rise in playoffs, especially at such a young age?”
In his six seasons in the NBA, Mitchell has owned It averaged 23.9 points. In 39 playoffs, 28.3. He scored twice 50 points in a playoff game.
I asked Bickerstaff who the little striker would be in the lineup with 7-foot Allen and Mobley along with 6-foot-1 guards Mitchell and Garland.
The coach wasn’t sure. Talk about matches and how we need time to find out. They have candidates such as Okoro, LeVert and Cedi Osman.
If they want a big assortment, there’s Kevin Love and Dean Wade. Bickerstaff said Love was “really excited” about Donovan’s trade.
“We have quality players who can sit on the bench like Kevin Love,” he said. “If you can keep two or three of your top six players on the floor at all times and keep some of the novices playing against the backups – that gives you an advantage.”
My feeling is that the fifth place may differ according to the opposition and how the different candidates perform.
“There’s a runway here,” Altman said. “I don’t want anyone to think that this year we’ll have to squabble or go bankrupt. That’s not what this is. This is a real runway here for these guys to grow together and learn how to play together.”
This is why it will take a few years to find out if this really is a franchise-changing business for Cavs. It’s good news. Because with this young man’s group, some patience would be required.
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