Dribbles: Donovan Mitchell Trade Gives Cavs Reason To Dream Even Bigger

Random dribbles on the Cavaliers’ blockbuster trade with the Jazz …

1. Overall, you have to like what Cavs president of basketball operations Koby Altman did here. He saw an opportunity to get a third All-Star … and snuck him and stole him.Donovan Mitchell

2. It’s hard not to focus on what the starting lineup will look like. In the backcourt you have two All-Stars in Darius Garland and newcomer Donovan Mitchell. At center you have another All-Star in Jarrett Allen. At power forward you have returning All-Rookie member Evan Mobley

3. The only mystery is the other forward spot. You could go with Caris LeVert, who will have a full training camp in Cleveland. Or you could go with with Isaac Okoro as sort of a glue guy — and bring LeVert off the bench for extra punch.

4. Obviously, coach J.B. Bickerstaff will have to figure this all out between now and the season-opener at Toronto on Oct. 18. And based on last season, the Cavs can have faith that Bickerstaff will do just that. As they say, it’s a good problem to have.

5. Yes, the Cavs and their fans will miss Collin Sexton. But contract talks weren’t really going anywhere, and it started to feel as if he was going to play this season on the one-year qualifying offer. That would mean unrestricted free agency next summer — and the Cavs possibly either overpaying Sexton or losing him for nothing.

6. Now, that’s not a definite, but it could have played a role.

7. Also, the Cavs’ one-year experiment with three 7-footers in the starting five is over, with Lauri Markkanen also off to the Jazz. As we all saw, it worked well, and there’s a strong sense that Altman didn’t move on from Markkanen without some hesitation. But again, Mitchell is an All-Star. You gotta make that move.

8. Some older Cavs fans have compared this deal to when the Cavs traded Kevin Johnson to the Suns to land Larry Nance back in the late 1980s. Those Cavs may have won a title had Michael Jordan not kept getting in their way. (P.S. Jordan got in everyone’s way in those days.)

9. Anyway, let’s say the Cavs start LeVert in Markkanen’s old spot. Now you have three All-Stars, Mobley and a guy who scored 42 in final game as a member of the Pacers. So, that’s pretty good, no?

10. Okoro could also earn the nod, with LeVert theoretically offering punch in reserve as a Jamal Crawford-like sixth man. One thing’s for sure — this is a basically a make-or-break season for Okoro, who’s entering his third year. He’s been inconsistent through the first two.

11. But remember, Garland was inconsistent through his first two, too. And just look at Garland accomplished in Year 3. Okoro deserves this season.

12. Translation: We can expect a training camp battle for the starting small forward spot. It’s doubtful the Cavs will start Kevin Love there, by the way. He got comfortable coming off the bench last season, and Bickerstaff isn’t likely to mess with what became a very good thing.

13. All this and we haven’t even mentioned reserves such as Cedi Osman and Dean Wade, newcomers Raul Neto and Robin Lopez, or returnee Ricky Rubio (when healthy).

14. Yes, the Cavs had to surrender lottery pick Ochai Agbaji, and he does indeed have some promise. But look at it this way — the Cavs expected to make the playoffs and not have that lottery pick in the first place. It was supposed to go to the Pacers in the LeVert trade. Not to mention the fact they got Rubio back from that deal.

15. In short, the Cavs have a nice mix of youth and older veterans, they’re deep, they have lots of weapons and a proven coach. And Mitchell is fantastic. Like, really, really good.

16. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the deal went down after talks between the Knicks and Jazz fizzled on Monday night. Altman then reached out to Jazz GM Justin Zanik on Tuesday to restart the talks. Two days later, they struck a deal.

17. Here is what a rival GM told me last week: “Koby Altman about the only (team exec) who’s about as aggressive as (Jazz CEO) Danny Ainge. … We’ve seen the moves Koby has made. He’s fearless man.”

18. After seeing what Altman did Thursday, yeah, that’s hard to argue.

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  1. Well, It IS exciting again to see your “DRIBBLES” being posted. I DO look forward to them throughout the season. They’re very informative & overall analysis enlightening. I do, however slightly disagree with you from time to time, but not very often.
    This time I do have some consternation, not with you, but with the overall severely OVER payment as stated by Mister “Nobody” in yesterdays announcement column. He was pretty clear of the disappointment felt by many.
    I, too, am happy about getting Mitchell for the team’s sake, for Garland was “EXHAUSTED” at the end of the season with all the injuries having decimated the guard position, in particular. BUT, & that was a BIG but, having ALL players coming back healthy,(except Rubio) ready for blastoff so to speak with a NEW Ochai, ready to help the defensive side & show just what he could do, & having had Laurie Markkanen, coming off his LEADING the Finland team, & YES He too, had 42 points in a BIG game for his team, & showing a much more aggressive point making talent.
    It was going to be an exciting time for the fan base to see just what the young Cavs COULD BE with that 3 tower front line experiment going into the second year HEALTHY. No other team had that. Now we don’t either.
    Again, I DO share your excitement of slipping by the Knicks on the steal, but the Cav’s were already better than the Knicks & probably far better even if Mitchell had gone to them.
    It’s just a let down to see Markkanen, & his exciting improvement go down the tubes, when other players like perennial disappointment Cedi Osman not get traded & upgraded. And Yes Cedi’s offseason DID yield some fruit, but NOT like Markkanen.
    But I DO thank you for showing US the way for excitement with the Mitchell “improvement” although I don’t exactly see it that way. Yes he’s an All-star, & usage, & proper coaching may play out okay, OR, we could have a “2 short guards, no defense, team with LESS basket protection WITHOUT the third of our 7 foot TRIO. And without (&who can say) Ochai whose defense was EXPECTED to aid the overall D. We as a fan base will NEVER get a chance to see that which we were already excited about ????
    Got to go with what IS now, no going back !!!! !!! I DO hope to someday share YOUR enthusiasm. Keep it up.

  2. snuck him and stole him??? you are on medication I’d say, the same kind that says do not operate machinery while taking this medication smh
    egregious overpay started with DG 50 million over market cap and then this devaluing of the necessity of a 3 seven foot front court and the bench play of Young Bull not too mention the potential to space and defend in YoungOch.
    You cannot argue the picks are useless either.
    The final though I have on this is if Sexland could not be justified defensively what makes anyone think Spidaland can be. He is just as bad if not less interested on that end of the court

  3. Dreaming bigger indeed. And thinking playoffs, what Cavs will need at that time.

    We will be short on experience with this young squad. I like the Lopez signing, bringing back Rubio obviously. We could still use a little more.

    Combine that with our need for depth at the 3. Looking what’s out there. Imagining Cavs in a deep playoff run, we will need somebody who can keep up with the young Cavs fast pace (35+ vets are out), has the physical strength and finishing ability to be out on the floor in the NBA playoffs at the 3-position, and still aligns with the Cavs philosophies and roster skill sets and roles. An all around player who can score from anywhere would be nice, and if they can get their own shot, even better, to keep the floor spread.

    LeVert and Okoro and Osman can and will all contribute at that spot. But all three have some weaknesses that can be exploited by opposing coaches in the playoffs. So I think adding.. yeah I’m going say it… Lance Stephenson.. this is the perfect time.

    We need a headache for the other team to deal with.. A fearless guy who’s not afraid to mix it up, take the other star player out mentally, get physical, pump up the crowd, and distract just enough while our entire roster does its thing. Lopez is a step in the right direction. But we need guy who we will have minutes for at his position to be on the floor in a crucial playoff series.

    Sign Lance, and make em dance!

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