Winners and losers in Donovan Mitchell trade to Cavaliers


In a verboten journalistic move, I am going to plunge a knife into the heart of this story in the first paragraph: We will not know who are the real winners and losers of this trade for years. Maybe seven years. There are just too many variables. We don’t know what those picks Cleveland sends to Utah will look like when they convey. We don’t know if Donovan Mitchell will be happy long-term in Cleveland and stay. There are many, many questions.

But from where we stand today, it’s a good day to be Donovan Mitchell and the Cavaliers.

Here are the winners and losers from the blockbuster Mitchell trade to the Cavaliers. First, here is what the trade looks like:

Cavaliers recieve: Donovan Mitchell

Jazz recieve: Three unprotected first-round picks (2025, 2027 and 2029), the rights to two pick swaps (2026 and 2028), Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, and Ochair Agbaji.

WINNER: Donovan Mitchell

He wanted out of Utah. Maybe before the Rudy Gobert trade, but certainly after it.

Cleveland is not New York or Miami (his preferred destinations), but Cleveland gives Mitchell a chance to be on a team that will be in the mix near the top of the East for years. Mitchell is going to play in games that matter on a team that, as it grows and develops, could be favorites to come out of the East in a couple of years.

Landing in Cleveland is a win for Mitchell.

And, if he is unhappy in a couple of years, Mitchell can force his way out (he has three years remaining on this contract, plus a player-option fourth season). Reports out of Cleveland were that Mitchell was excited by the prospect of playing for the Cavs, and he hinted as much on Twitter.

Plus, Cleveland has better pierogi than New York or Miami.

WINNER: Cleveland Cavaliers

This was a bold move by the Cavaliers — and a smart one both because they can afford it and because 25-year-old Mitchell doesn’t change the timeline of this young core.

Outside of that “kid from Akron,” elite free agents do not come to Cleveland. GM Koby Altman built this team with smart draft picks — Darius Garland and Evan Mobley (to be fair, Mobley was the obvious pick in their position) — and a wise trade that got Jarrett Allen for the 30th pick in the draft. The Cavaliers needed another star to be a real threat in the East. Mitchell can be that guy.

Cleveland had the 19th-ranked offense in the NBA last season with Garland as the primary (and lone quality) shot creator. Now the Cavaliers have one of the most dynamic backcourts in the NBA, two players who can shoot from three levels, drive, and set teammates up. The risk with this backcourt is both Mitchell and Garland are 6’1” and not great defenders — this could be Portland east (where Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum were entertaining to watch there was a cap on Portland in the postseason because of their size and defense). Having a front line of Mobley and Allen helps here, they are two mobile bigs who are elite rim protectors. Last season the Cavaliers were sixth in the league in defense with a poor defensive backcourt, that kind of trend could continue.

How good the Cavaliers are in three or four years depends on two things: 1) Can they retain Mitchell after this contract? 2) How good Mobley ends up being. He will be elite defensively, but can he be a No.1 option on offense? Garland and Mitchell are All-Star level players, but not necessarily franchise cornerstones, top-10 in the league guys. Mobley has the potential to be. The Cavs will also have to find a quality 3&D wing to go with the other four starters.

LOSER: New York Knicks fans (and maybe the Knicks)

Leon Rose and the Knicks stood their ground and did not overpay to land a star. If you’re a New York Knicks fan, you can spin that as a positive, as a break from bad patterns of the past for the organization. “The Knicks did the right thing” crowd can bolster their argument by saying those eight draft picks they didn’t use to land Mitchell (as well as promising young players such as Quentin Grimes and Obi Toppin) are still there. They can be used in a future deal.

But Mitchell was a player the Knicks had targeted — New York ties, CAA ties, and he wanted to be there and take on the role of star in New York City. This was the sexy new thing Knicks fans largely wanted and would get behind. A lot of Knicks fans reacted like Stephen A. Smith.

The Knicks swung and missed. Rose played it tight, only putting two unprotected first-round picks in the mix at the end (there may have been three early on, but that changed), betting that nobody else would offer more, and then setting an artificial deadline. When the Jazz didn’t meet that deadline, the Knicks extended RJ Barrett. The Knicks thought the Jazz would return to the dance floor, and they did — but with a new partner. Rose miscalculated.

The Knick got better this offseason by adding Jalen Brunson. However, the Hawks got a lot better adding Dejounte Murray to pair with Trae Young. The Cavaliers are now much better with Mitchell and Garland in the backcourt. The Knicks did not keep up with the best of the East and it could come back to bite them this season. Maybe this works out because the Knicks get the next available All-Star and he is better (or a better fit), but make no mistake, not landing Mitchell as the frontrunner was a miss.

WINNER: Utah Jazz

Danny Ainge wanted picks. He got picks.

We can debate if two unprotected Knicks picks would be better than three Cavaliers picks that — if they retain Mitchell and the rest of their core — could be in the 20s in a few years. But Ainge has stockpiled picks this summer: Six unprotected, one top-five protected, plus a series of swaps. Plus the Jazz have their own picks still. It’s going to be about drafting and development, but the Jazz have gone down the deep rebuild road and in that context this trade works (even if it’s not the haul they hoped for).

One other winner in Utah: new coach Will Hardy. If he had to start training camp with Mitchell on the roster, it would have been a circus, with him answering half an hour of Mitchell questions daily. Now, he gets a clean slate to start and build his culture.

LOSER: Lauri Markkanen

The best player ever out of Finland is a solid NBA player who was asked to play out of position as a three last season in Cleveland. Now he gets traded to the Jazz, who are expected to flip him by the February trade deadline to somewhere else. Markkanen may get showcased early in Utah and put up numbers, but it’s so that he can get moved again (his contract for $16.5 million this season and a little more each of the next two years also makes him a very tradable player).

Markkanen may want to keep a “go bag” by the door this season, because he could be on the move at any time.

WINNER: Collin Sexton

Sexton was going to have to play for the $7.2 million qualifying offer and prove himself, then hope to find a payday next summer. Instead, he signed a four-year, $72 million extension as part of the trade — and the Jazz are going to keep him around and give him the ball this season. It’s a good day to be Collin Sexton.

Watch Dončić pick up 16th technical, will result in one-game suspension


Luka Dončić barks at the referees more than any player in the league, and with that he does not get the benefit of the doubt when he’s flirting with the edge of a technical foul.

That caught up with Dončić on Sunday, when he didn’t get a call on a leaning baseline jumper, said something to the nearby official, and racked up his 16th technical this season. That will mean an automatic one-game suspension unless it is rescinded (which is unlikely in this case).

Dončić likely will have to sit out Monday when the Mavericks play the Pacers on the second game of a back-to-back.

This suspension comes on the heels of Dončić being fined $35,000 — but not being given a technical foul at the time — for making a money gesture towards a referee in frustration after another recent Mavericks loss.

Dončić went on to have 40 points Sunday but the Mavericks lost again — their second time in a row to the tanking Hornets, their fourth in a row overall and they have now dropped 7-of-9. That has dropped them out of even the play-in to 11th in the West. The Mavericks need to rack up wins over the season’s final two weeks to even make the postseason.

And they must get that next win Monday without Dončić in the lineup.


UPDATE: LeBron “active,” will make return to court Sunday vs. Bulls

Celebrities At The Los Angeles Lakers Game
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UPDATE: LeBron James has officially been upgraded to active and will make his return to the team on Sunday against the Chicago Bulls.


A couple of days ago, reports said LeBron James hoped to return and play the final few games before the season ended and he said there was no timeline for his return.

In less than 24 hours the Lakers have moved LeBron from “out” last game to “doubtful” and now — as of Sunday morning — questionable for the Lakers game against the Bulls. While nothing is confirmed, these are the steps a team takes before a player returns from injury. LeBron is going to test his foot pregame and make a decision.

LeBron had been pushing to return from a foot tendon injury that had sidelined him for 13 games. The Lakers have gone 8-5 in those games behind the second-best defense in the league over that stretch. What has struggled during those games has been the offense (23rd in the league) and LeBron instantly fixes that. He has averaged 29.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game this season and the Laker offense has been six points per 100 possessions better when he has been on the court.

The Lakers currently sit tied for the No.7/8 seeds in the West, with an outside shot at climbing into the top six (they are 1.5 games back of the Lakers and Clippers who are tied for sixth, but if those teams go 4-3 the rest of the way the Lakers need to go 6-2 over their last eight just to tie them). The Lakers are also one game ahead of the 11-seed Dallas Mavericks and missing out on the playoffs entirely.

The Lakers need wins the rest of the way to secure a playoff spot, and some time to build chemistry heading into the playoffs. Having LeBron James helps with all of that.

Nets thrash Heat, move back up to No.6 seed in East

Brooklyn Nets v Miami Heat
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MIAMI (AP) — All the Brooklyn Nets needed, coach Jacque Vaughn insisted, was one win.

They got it, and made it look easy.

Mikal Bridges scored 27 points, and the Nets opened the third quarter on a 31-6 run on the way to rolling past Miami 129-100 on Saturday night and leapfrogging the Heat back into the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference.

Cam Johnson added 23 points and Spencer Dinwiddie scored 15 for the Nets (40-34), who snapped a five-game slide. They’re only a half-game up on Miami (40-35) in the race for the sixth and final guaranteed playoff berth, but swept the Heat 3-0 this season and would also own a head-to-head tiebreaker.

“We had the mindset coming in that this was a playoff game,” Johnson said.

Max Strus scored 23 for the Heat, all of them in the first half. Tyler Herro scored 23, Jimmy Butler had 18 and Bam Adebayo finished with 16 for the Heat. Miami was outscored 64-31 after halftime.

“We have not been defending at a world-class level, the way we’re capable of … and the second half just became an avalanche,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Strus came off the bench and made his first nine shots, one of them putting Miami up 51-37 midway through the second quarter. Over the next 14 minutes, the Nets outscored Miami 54-24 – completely turning the game around, eventually leading by 32 and, for now, putting Brooklyn in position to escape the play-in tournament that’ll decide the final two East playoff berths.

“You see how this March Madness is and you’re one and you’re done,” Vaughn said. “And that’s part of it. I have not discussed any of the standings with this group. Really, we have gone day to day and tried to get a win.”

The Heat could have moved 1 1/2 games up on Brooklyn for sixth with a win.

“There has been nothing easy about this season and that doesn’t necessarily mean that has to be a negative thing,” Spoelstra said. “You have to embrace the struggle. You have to figure out ways to stay together … but we just got categorically outplayed tonight.”

It was Brooklyn’s second trip to Miami this season. The first was Jan. 8 – which ended up being the last time Kevin Durant played for the Nets, and the last time Durant and Kyrie Irving played together. Durant left that game with a knee injury, then got traded to Phoenix, and Irving has since been dealt to Dallas, as well.

The Nets were 27-13 after that night, second in the East, just a game behind Boston for the best record in the NBA. They’re 13-21 since, yet still have the Heat looking up at them in the standings – which Vaughn insists he hasn’t discussed with his team.

“You need the momentum, the confidence, the reassurance that you can get it done,” Vaughn said. “So, haven’t tried to complicate it more than that.”

Jokic scores 31 points with 11 assists, leads Nuggets past Bucks 129-106


DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic had 31 points and 11 assists, Jamal Murray finished with 26 points and nine assists, and the Denver Nuggets beat the Milwaukee Bucks 129-106 on Saturday night in a late-season showdown of the NBA’s conference leaders.

Michael Porter Jr. scored 19 points for West-leading Denver (50-24), which outscored East-leading Milwaukee 68-40 in the second half.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 31 points — just seven in the second half — and grabbed nine rebounds for the Bucks (53-20).

“It’s better to win games, but our goal is to do something in a playoffs,” Jokic said.

The battle of the top teams in each conference — and two strong MVP candidates — was more competitive than the teams’ first meeting, won by the Bucks 107-99. Then, the Nuggets held out four starters — Jokic, Murray, Porter and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — in the game in Milwaukee on Jan. 25. Denver had played the night before in New Orleans and opted to rest its stars.

The circumstances were reversed, with the Bucks having played in Utah on Friday night.

“We still play, still got to be better, there’s no excuses about that,” Khris Middleton said. “But I’m sure for a lot of fans, a lot of people out there, they’d love to see healthy teams, or not coming off back to backs.”

Antetokounmpo scored 24 points on 11-for-14 shooting in the first half, with all but one of those field goals coming at the rim. Murray (20 points) and Jokic (17 points) kept Denver within three at the break, and then the Nuggets outscored Milwaukee 34-19 in the third quarter to take a 97-85 lead.

Jeff Green dunked on Antetokounmpo to open the fourth as the Nuggets’ lead swelled to 15 points. Grayson Allen hit a 3-pointer to cut it to 103-91 with 9:54 left, but Milwaukee went scoreless for 4:10 while Denver built a 111-91 lead.

“It was an amazing dunk,” Jokic said of Green’s dunk. “I didn’t think he was going to do it. He almost fell down, so it was a really nice dunk.”

Antetokounmpo went to the bench with 5:54 left and didn’t return.

The Bucks lost some composure in the third quarter. Bobby Portis Jr. was called for a take foul on Jokic and, immediately after, a technical. Denver hit both free throws and Bruce Brown hit a 3-pointer for a 84-76 lead. Minutes later, Brook Lopez got a technical while sitting on the bench.

Antetokounmpo picked up Milwaukee’s third technical with 6:41 left in the game.

“It was a night where we were grumpy, and it happens,” coach Mike Budenholzer said.

Denver coach Michael Malone got a technical late in the first quarter, and it was to prevent Jokic from getting one. Jokic was frustrated by the physical play, so during a timeout Malone told him he would get the technical.

“I can get kicked out, he can’t. I understand the pecking order here,” Malone said.