Donovan Mitchell trade grades: Cavs load up for present and future; Jazz add to massive haul of future assets


Kevin Durant has withdrawn his trade request. LeBron James signed an extension with the Lakers. Kyrie Irving appears to reside in Brooklyn. The NBA offseason had reached an anticlimactic point in recent weeks, but we know better than to think that would last.

Sure enough, the Cleveland Cavaliers came through Thursday with a top rope Macho Man Randy Savage elbow, acquiring Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz in exchange for young players and picks. Mitchell was expected to be traded, but most reports suggested the New York Knicks had the inside track to land the 25-year-old three-time All-Star. When talks between New York and Utah reached an impasse (allegedly because the Knicks refused to include Quentin Grimes in the deal), the Cavs seized the opportunity and positioned themselves as one of the most promising young teams in the NBA.

Here’s a summary of the reported trading, followed by numbers for each team.

Cavaliers receive:

Receiving Jazz:

Cavaliers commercial grade: A+

Let’s start with what the Cavaliers got: a three-time All-Star who has racked up 26 points per game over the past two seasons on 44/37/85 shooting splits and averaged 28 points in 39 playoff games, including multiple games after the season of more than 50 points. Mitchell outperformed the 80th percentile in both pick-and-roll and isolation scores last season, according to Synergy Sports. Basically – the dude is a walking bucket who can score on all three levels.

Darius Garland desperately needed help as the team’s only reliable initiator, as evidenced by the Cavs’ 20th strike last season, and Mitchell will fill that gap immediately. Mitchell isn’t the most natural passer and facilitator, so he will be complemented perfectly by Garland, who was sixth in the league last season with 8.6 assists per game and was in the 82nd percentile in possession plus assists, according to Synergy.

Garland and Mitchell each stand at 6-foot-1 and make up one of the smallest backcourts in the NBA, which will likely cause some problems for a Cavs defense that was fifth in the league last season. However, they are backed by Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, two of the NBA’s best defensive big men. The two young 7-footers combined to block three shots per game, and Mobley could eventually develop into a transcendent, interchangeable perennial candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.

Mitchell’s two biggest weaknesses – passing and defending – are obscured, at least on paper, by his new teammates.

Now, on to what the Cavs gave up. There is no sugar coating on it, this is a big catch. Giving up three unprotected firsts basically brings an atomic bomb to their design capital and requires a reliance on their new core four, for better or for worse. Sexton has averaged over 24 points in his last healthy season, Markkanen is a rare, mobile 7-footer who can expand to a 3-point range, and Agbaji was the 14th pick in the June draft.

But from the Cavs perspective, you can see why these assets may not be as valuable as they are to the Jazz. Assuming health and growth for Cleveland’s young stars, those unprotected first-round picks will likely be in their late teens or 20s — not exactly the range where you’ll find an impact player for a team with deep playoff aspirations. Barring unforeseen disasters, the 2026 and 2028 swaps won’t even come into play, as their picks should be worse than the rebuilt Jazz.

Sexton clearly struggled to live with Garland in the 11 games he played last season and the Cavs had no interest in giving him the contract Utah did, so he was essentially barred from the franchise’s future plans. The experiment where Markkanen played alongside Allen and Mobley was interesting (plus -7.9 net score in 621 minutes), but probably not sustainable, leaving Markkanen replaceable. And while Agbaji is a promising prospect, he is an older rookie of 22 and completely unproven at the NBA level.

So the Cavs gave up a lot, but it’s easy to look at it from their perspective and see why the catch was totally worth it for the chance to add Mitchell to the core of Garland, Mobley and Allen. In one fell swoop, the Cavs are committed to both current and future success with three All-Stars (and one future All-Star) all under 26.

Jazz Trading Class: B+

As Jazz lead executive Danny Ainge made clear with the Rudy Gobert trade, Utah wants all the choices. If that was the goal, the deal with Mitchell makes perfect sense. Even assuming the swaps don’t come through, three unprotected first-round picks (and a lottery pick in Agbaji) seem to be about market value for a star of Mitchell’s caliber — especially when everyone knew it was going to be traded. Additionally, Utah added solid young players with friendly contracts in Sexton and Markkanen, who could either be part of the franchise’s future or eventually flip for – you guessed it – more choices.

So as we evaluate this trade for the Jazz, it’s a matter of what other options were on the table. We’re not quite sure what the offers were for other teams, but there’s been prolific coverage of what the Knicks were willing to give up. Their most recent offering was reportedly RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, two unprotected first-round picks and another top five protected first-round pick. The Jazz reportedly wanted New York to trade Grimes for Quickley and/or remove the safeties on the third future pick, so the deal collapsed and they moved to Cleveland.

Another report from ESPN said the Knicks offered Barrett, Obi Toppin, Mitchell Robinson and three unprotected first-round picks in early July, which the Jazz turned down.

Given the Cavs’ roster after the transaction, it’s hard to imagine those picks will be anywhere near the top-10 even in 2029. Would you rather have Barrett, a 22-year-old potential All-Star who average was 20 points per game last season plus the Knicks’ future picks instead of Cleveland’s? Maybe, but time will tell.

What we do know is that first-rounders are gold in the NBA. They can be packaged for stars, used as sweeteners in trades, or combined to step up the design for a prospect you crave. Ultimately, even if Cleveland’s picks aren’t the cream of the crop, they’re still first-rounders that can be used in a number of ways.

Combined with Gobert and Royce O’Neale’s deals, the Mitchell pull means Utah has now acquired seven unprotected first-round picks, one top-five protected first-rounder and two picks swaps this summer alone. Not to mention that they have several players on the current roster such as Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson who could score the first rounds themselves.

Not a bad start to rebuilding in Utah, and the riding and dealing is far from over.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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