The Utah Jazz have completed the demolition stage of their rebuild.
Two months to the day after dealing All-NBA center Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Jazz will trade All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes reported.
Cleveland will send Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen and Ochai Agbaji to Utah in the trade, but that is hardly the haul chief Jazz executive Danny Ainge sought in exchange for Mitchell. Ainge wanted draft picks, and he got three unprotected first-rounders and two first-round swaps in the deal, according to multiple reports.
That brings the total return for the two centerpieces of Utah's five straight playoff appearances to seven first-round draft picks (six unprotected) and three first-round pick swaps, plus two first-round picks from this year's draft (Agbaji and Walker Kessler), Sexton, Markkanen, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt and Leandro Bolmaro. The Jazz also received Patrick Beverley in the Gobert trade and flipped the veteran defensive specialist to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson.
Sexton, a restricted free agent, will sign a four-year, $72 million contract to facilitate the trade, per Haynes.
The picks coming from the Cavaliers fall in the years 2025, 2027 and 2029, plus swaps in 2026 and 2028, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported. The Timberwolves owe the Jazz their first-round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029, plus another 2026 swap. Only Minnesota's 2029 first-round pick is protected (for top five).
Like the Timberwolves, the Cavaliers are betting their future on a young core, adding Mitchell to a roster that includes All-Stars Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen and Rookie of the Year runner-up Evan Mobley.
Garland and Mitchell immediately forge one of the Eastern Conference's most formidable offensive backcourts, even if it might take some time for them to sort out their combined usage rate of 60.7%. Allen and Mobley should be able to mask some of the inherent defensive limitations of two offense-first guards.
The Cavaliers were the East's No. 3 seed at the All-Star break this past season, on pace to win 50 games, before a series of injuries derailed their season. They finished 44-38, eighth place in the conference, but lost consecutive play-in tournament games to the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks, falling shy of the playoffs.
Mitchell presumably propels the Cavaliers into a stratosphere just below the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics, who split the last two conference championships. The Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers reside in the same space. Cleveland also should not discount the talent on the Hawks, Nets and Chicago Bulls. The East is loaded, and Mitchell by no means guarantees contention, but he gives the Cavs a shot. Considering they have not made the playoffs since LeBron James left in 2018, that is a win for Cleveland.
Meanwhile, Utah enters the sweepstakes for projected No. 1 overall 2023 draft pick Victor Wembanyama. The trades of Mitchell and Gobert imploded a roster that found a second-round playoff ceiling, and Ainge still has Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson to pawn from the rubble for more picks.
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Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill thinks Donovan Mitchell is a better fit in Cleveland than with the New York Knicks, but the pressure is on:
At times, he’s been a spectacular playoff performer, but the pressure will ratchet up in Cleveland and he’ll be expected to lead the young core headlined by Darius Garland and second-year big man Evan Mobley.
Mitchell has the playoff experience relative to anyone associated with the Cavs’ future and a fresh start will perhaps unlock him even more.
Sources told Yahoo Sports a deal was close with the Knicks before New York balked at the last second, pivoting to give RJ Barrett a four-year extension. It would’ve included Barrett, Quentin Grimes, expiring contracts, two first-round picks, a top-four protected pick owed to the the Knicks from Milwaukee in 2025, two pick swaps and two second-round picks.
The Knicks felt the price was too steep, sources said, and walked away.
Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill weighs in on the Donovan Mitchell trade:
Donovan Mitchell joins ambitious Cavaliers after Knicks balk at parting with RJ Barrett, Quentin Grimes
Sources told Yahoo Sports a deal was close with the Knicks before New York balked at the last second. It would’ve included Barrett, Grimes, expiring contracts and a package of draft picks.
The Wizards intend to get back to NBA playoffs, but they will have to do so in an increasingly stacked conference.
The Cavaliers became the latest Eastern Conference contender to drastically improve with Thursday's blockbuster trade for Donovan Mitchell.
The Eastern Conference is absolutely loaded with quality teams after the Jazz traded Donovan Mitchell to the Cavs.