The Cleveland Cavaliers have been essentially the most nice shock within the NBA final season till the burden of accidents despatched their playoff goals down the tubes. After proudly owning the NBA’s second worst cumulative file over the three seasons that adopted LeBron James’ departure to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Cavs have been on-fire to begin the 2021-2022 marketing campaign, taking the Jap Convention’s third greatest file into the All-Star break (which was truly 70 p.c of the way in which by 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 have been knocked out within the play-in event by the Atlanta Hawks.
The Cavs already had an amazing factor going for them with two younger All-Stars in Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen, and a freakish 7-footer in final yr’s rookie Evan Mobley. Cleveland may have been content material to look at its glorious core develop all through the 2022-2023 season and past with nothing in the way in which of actual expectations. As an alternative, the Cavs noticed a possibility so as to add a fourth star late on this offseason, and pushed their chips to the middle of the desk to get it accomplished.
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 simply 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, notably one who has by no means made an All-NBA group 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 group transferring ahead. It’s additionally completely price it.
The Cavs immediately have a convincing argument for one of the best “large 4” within the NBA. It’s a core that can 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 seek out
Each group within the NBA desires nice shot creators. Each group 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 price final yr. Garland can also 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 an incredible complement subsequent to him offensively within the backcourt. Mitchell performed as a “heliocentric” star in Utah with a sky-high utilization price. 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 house the ground and hit threes off the ball. It’s going to extraordinarily arduous for defenses to load up towards 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 defend the rim whereas largely taking part in drop protection but in addition displaying some potential to play different schemes.
Mobley has the potential to be one of the best piece of all. He’s a 7-footer with an unimaginable 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 must be a future Defensive Participant of the 12 months candidate transferring ahead, and it’s completely potential he may 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 goals.
The Cavs don’t want far more to finish the roster
It’s simple to have 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 task.
The Cavs don’t want a wing who is superb as a ball handler or passer as a result of Mitchell and Garland examine these containers. Actually, the Cavs simply want a straight “three and D” model wing that may … hit spot-up threes and defend large wings, a lot of whom are stars. That’s not a straightforward participant to seek out, nevertheless it shouldn’t be unimaginable both, whether or not Cleveland is making a commerce (Caris LeVert may 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 formidable 35 p.c from deep, however solely did it on 2.3 makes an attempt per sport. Cleveland wants a better quantity three-point shooter on the wing, and may prioritize that a part of Okoro’s growth 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 must be a significant concern after his pathetic displaying defensively within the playoffs final yr towards the Mavericks. Garland isn’t large or robust 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 in all probability 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 have been weighed down by each a scarcity of ball handlers, and a scarcity of capturing (they completed No. 20 in three-point price, or share of photographs taken from three-point vary). Mitchell addresses each areas. He’s a high-volume three-point shooter who can even create off the dribble.
There’s a number of swing components 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 must 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 enhance their 4 stars?
- Well being can also be a priority, however that’s the case for each group.
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 have been fortunate to land the No. 3 choose within the 2021 draft, and even luckier the Houston Rockets handed on Mobley. They have been additionally fortunate the Jazz didn’t settle for an arguably higher bundle for Mitchell earlier within the offseason.
After all, each NBA contender wants luck to get there. The Cavs had some, however the entrance workplace additionally did a masterful job constructing this group. It’s virtually unbelievable to contemplate the Cleveland Cavaliers are this proficient with out LeBron James, nevertheless it’s true. With Mitchell beneath contract for 3 extra seasons, and Allen, Garland, and Mobley beneath group management long-term, it’s completely cheap to imagine the Cavs might be an NBA Finals contender now and within the close to future.