The Cavaliers have quietly had a strong offseason.
Their moves weren’t the flashiest: drafting Kansas standout Ochai Agbaji at No. 14 and bringing back Ricky Rubio, while adding depth-signings in Robin Lopez and Raul Neto.
But each move addressed a clear need this offseason without overspending or overreaching.
And quietly improving has been Cleveland’s MO ever since LeBron James left in 2018.
However, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that the Utah Jazz are now taking calls for star Donovan Mitchell, could the Cavs spice up their offseason with a splashy signing?
In Mitchell, the Cavs would get a playoff-experienced shooting threat, who’s averaged 25.3 points over the last three seasons.
Further, Mitchell has shot 44.6% from the field and 36.7% from deep over the same span.
In essence, he’s a turbo-charged Collin Sexton, albeit with slightly better assist numbers (5.2 per game since 2021).
Mitchell would also be a fun backcourt partner for an ascending Darius Garland.
But Mitchell isn’t the second-coming of LeBron James, by any means.
He has his warts; his clutch shooting and defense (111.4 defensive rating last season) are areas for concern.
Two points on that matter.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 12, 2022
First, the Cavs boasted a top-five defensive team last season.
Led by Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, the Cavaliers were excellent stoppers.
And while Utah boasted perennial DPOY-candidate in Rudy Gobert, the Cavs would bet that the collective team defense provided by Allen and Mobley outweigh Gobert’s individual greatness.
That said, the defensive numbers might dip just a bit.
But that brings us to point two: the offense.
While Cleveland’s defense was excellent last year, the offense sputtered.
Without Sexton’s offensive prowess, Cleveland scuffled to just a top-20 offense.
Adding Mitchell would likely catapult Cleveland’s offense into the top-10, considering his Jazz finished as the top offensive team last season.
And so long as the defense doesn’t crater, Cleveland could very well boast a top-10 defensive unit as well.
Last season, the Finals runners-up Boston Celtics trotted out the league’s top defense and No. 9 rated offense.
And Golden State wasn’t far behind, with the second-best defense and a top-15 offense.
That’s what Cleveland is shooting for here; it’s the entire allure of a trade.
Getting It Done
Cleveland headed into the offseason knowing it needed to add quality depth.
A lack of depth killed the Cavs down the stretch, with injuries to Allen and Mobley sending the season into a tailspin.
But trying to secure Mitchell will necessarily eliminate some of that depth.
Any deal for Mitchell will also involve picks and/or pick swaps.
Unfortunately, Cleveland’s next non-protected first-round pick isn’t until 2024, with next year’s pick lottery protected with Indiana.
And unless something awful happens next season, the Cavaliers should not be picking in the lottery, meaning Indiana will get Cleveland’s first-rounder.
Fortunately, Cleveland does own its own first-rounders until 2029, and could throw in any number of those selections.
Provided of course, they don’t break the Stepien Rule and include first-rounders in back-to-back drafts.
Instead, Cleveland can send pick-swaps in those between years.
If Cleveland is smart, they wouldn’t include any first-round picks past 2026, when Mitchell’s contract is up.
That’s because while Mitchell is locked down now, he very well could leave once his contract expires in 2026.
And if he leaves, that might hurt Cleveland’s chances of competing, making it more important than for the Cavs to retain their draft capital.
But with the Cavs likely to entertain heavy competition, they might just have to pony up.
So that leaves us with sending Utah three first-rounders (2024, 2026, 2028) — all lightly protected, of course.
Throw in two pick swaps in 2025 and 2027.
“Making his 4th All Star appearance, from the Cleveland Cavaliers…DONOVAN MITCHELL” pic.twitter.com/VVqKc206nM
— 98 𝙙𝙖𝙮𝙨 𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙨𝙚𝙭𝙩𝙤𝙣 (@HsgvensSon) April 19, 2022
Then we get to players.
Some combination of Caris LeVert, Collin Sexton (via sign and trade), Isaac Okoro, and Lauri Markkanen will be on the table.
Make no mistake: Cleveland should not and will not include Mobley or Garland in any of these packages.
But Utah could do a lot worse than a deal involving three recent lottery picks in Sexton, Okoro, and Markkanen.
If Utah wants a young core to build around, the Cavs can offer a serious package.