The Cleveland Cavaliers’ risk of acquiring Donovan Mitchell two offseasons ago looks as though it’s going to come to fruition, which could potentially bode well for either the New York Knicks or Brooklyn Nets.
The four-time All-Star guard is a free agent next season and the hopes of the Cavaliers building a legitimate championship contender look all but stalled out at this rate. After being knocked out in the first round of the playoffs by the Knicks last year, Mitchell’s supporting cast in Cleveland is sidelined for considerable stretches. Darius Garland has a broken jaw while Evan Mobley is shelved while recovering from knee surgery.
Through 27 games this season, the Cavaliers are 15-12 — sixth in the Eastern Conference — with Mitchell shouldering the load. He’s averaged 27.7 points and 5.5 assists per game. That kind of mediocrity isn’t what the 27-year-old was searching for when he demanded a trade from the Utah Jazz following the 2021-22 campaign.
Considering he’s signed through the 2024-25 season, the Cavaliers would be wise to trade him sooner rather than later to maximize their return while completely avoiding the possibility of him walking in free agency at the end of next season.
Of course, that catapults the Knicks back into the fold for a potential unification with Mitchell, who hails from the area and whose dad works for the New York Mets — one can see Mitchell at Citi Field often during the summers. The two were linked when Utah made him available two summers ago, but instead dealt him to Cleveland for a package including Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, and five first-round draft picks.
Mitchell himself believed that a homecoming was on his horizon, too, when the Jazz ultimately fired up trade talks.
“I thought it was New York,” Mitchell said during his introductory press conference in Cleveland. “I’m not going to lie to you. Obviously, who doesn’t want to be home next to mom?”
The Knicks have a bevy of draft picks to send to Cleveland, though trade conversations might meander toward the availability of New York’s young swingman, RJ Barrett.
But another New York team could be in the mix, as well. The Nets, who were forced to gut their superstar trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden last year before it even got off the ground, could certainly use an infusion of star power despite the emergence of Cam Thomas. They’re flush with draft picks, as well, following the deals of Irving, Harden, and Durant.
“I would say the Knicks and the Nets are riding on the line,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on Monday while appearing on Hoop Collective. “Those two teams where I think Donovan would have a chance of resigning. if they got into a bidding war, I think that could be interesting.”
To his credit, Mitchell has shut down any speculative trade talks.
“My job is to focus on this,” Mitchell said over the weekend, (h/t Joe Vardon, The Athletic). “We have two guys that are out, so I’m not answering anything. And, no disrespect, I appreciate that you have to ask the question, but I’m not going there with any of those questions. My focus is on these guys being out, us trying to find a way to get wins.”