Winners and losers in Donovan Mitchell trade to Cavaliers

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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.

Pelican’s Green says Zion ‘dominated the scrimmage pretty much’

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The Zion hype train keeps right on rolling. First were the reports he was in the best shape of his life, then he walked into media day and it looked like he is.

Now Zion has his own hype man in Pelicans coach Willie Green, who said he dominated the first day of team scrimmages. Via Andre Lopez of ESPN.

“Z looked amazing,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said on Wednesday afternoon. “His strength, his speed. He dominated the scrimmage pretty much.”

“What stood out was his force more than anything,” Green said. “He got down the floor quickly. When he caught the ball, he made quick decisions. Whether it was scoring, finding a teammate. It was really impressive to see.”

Reach for the salt shaker to take all this with — it’s training camp scrimmages. Maybe Zion is playing that well right now — he’s fully capable, he was almost an All-NBA player in 2020-21 (eighth in forward voting) before his foot injury — but we need to see it against other teams. In games that matter. Then we’ll need to see it over a stretch of time.

If Zion can stay healthy this season, if his conditioning is where everyone says it is, he could be in for a monster season. Combine that with CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram and a strong supporting cast in New Orleans, and the Pelicans could surprise a lot of people — and be fun to watch.

 

PBT Podcast: What’s next for Celtics, Suns? Should NBA end one-and-done?

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NBA training camps just opened and teams have yet to play a preseason game, but already two contenders are dealing with problems.

The Celtics have the suspension of coach Ime Udoka as a distraction, plus defensive anchor center Robert Williams will miss at least the start of the season following another knee surgery.

The Suns have the distraction of a suspended owner who is selling the team, plus Jae Crowder is out and demanding a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not seem happy.

Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and myself go through all the training camp news, including the wilder ones with the Lakers and Nets, breaking down what to take away from all that — plus how good Zion Williamson and James Harden look physically.

Then the pair discusses the potential of the NBA doing away with the one-and-done role and letting 18-year-olds back in the game — is that good for the NBA?

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Report: Price tag on Phoenix Suns could be more than $3 billion

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Six
Harry How/Getty Images
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In 2004, Robert Sarver bought the Phoenix Suns for a then-record $401 million.

When Sarver sells the team now — pushed to do so following the backlash prompted by an NBA report that found an 18-year pattern of bigotry, misogyny, and a toxic workplace — he is going to make a massive profit.

The value of the Suns now is at $3 billion or higher, reports Ramona Shelburne and Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

There will be no shortage of bidders for the team, with league sources predicting a franchise valuation of more than $3 billion now that revenue has rebounded following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and with a new television rights deal and CBA on the horizon. Sarver purchased the team for just over $400 million in 2004.

Saver currently owns 35% of the Suns (the largest share), but reports say his role as managing partner allows him to sell the entire team (the minority owners have to comply, although they would make a healthy profit, too). Sarver also decides who to sell the team to, not the NBA or other owners.

Early rumors of buyers have included Larry Ellison (founder of Oracle), Bob Iger (former Disney CEO), Laurene Powell Jobs (widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, she has a 20% share of the Washington Wizards), and others. There have been no reports of talks yet, and Sarver does not need to be on a rushed timeline.

Meanwhile, a contending Suns team tries to focus on the season despite the owner selling the team, Jae Crowder not being in training camp and pushing for a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not sound happy to be back with the Suns.

Steve Nash on his relationship with Kevin Durant: ‘We’re good’

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In an effort to gain leverage for a trade this offseason, Kevin Durant threw down a “either the coach and GM are gone or I am” ultimatum.

Now coach Steve Nash (and GM Sean Marks) are back in Brooklyn, on the same team and trying to build a contender together. Awkward? Not if you ask Nash, which is what Nick Friedell of ESPN did.

“We’re fine,” Nash said after the Nets’ first official practice of the season on Tuesday. “We’re good. Ever since we talked, it’s been like nothing’s changed. I have a long history with Kevin. I love the guy. Families have issues. We had a moment and it’s behind us. That’s what happens. It’s a common situation in the league.

“We all were hurting, seething, to go through what we went through last year, not being able to overcome all that adversity. Sometimes you lose perspective because you expect to win, but the reality is we were able to talk and discuss what we can improve on from last year. And also keep perspective. We went through a ton of stuff.”

First off, what else was Nash going to say? He knows the power dynamic in the NBA, and Durant has far more leverage than he does — not enough to get Nash fired this summer, but still more than the coach.

Second, Nash could be telling the truth from his perspective. NBA players and coaches understand better than anyone this is a business and things are rarely personal. Grudges are not held like fans think they are (most of the time). Nash saw Durant’s move for what it was — an effort to create pressure — and can intellectually shrug it off, reach out to KD and talk about the future.

What this brings into question was one of the Nets’ biggest issues last season — mental toughness and togetherness. Do the Nets have the will to fight through adversity and win as a team? Individually Durant, Kyrie Irving, Nash and others have shown that toughness in the past, but as a team it was not that hard to break the will of the Nets last season. Are their relationships strong enough, is their will strong enough this season?

It feels like we will find out early. If the wheels come off the Nets’ season, it feels like it will happen early and by Christmas things could be a full-on dumpster fire. Or maybe Nash is right and they are stronger than we think.