Donovan Mitchell? Leaving Cavs Soon? Don’t Bet On It

By now, you’ve heard the rumors. Cavaliers star Donovan Mitchell is leaving the team and the Los Angeles Lakers intend to be hot on his trail during the offseason.Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA Rumors

Yeah, well, good luck with all that.

Let’s start with the idea that Mitchell is aiming to bolt during the offseason. It was started by an Eastern Conference executive, who said he has “no doubt” that Mitchell is on his way out of Cleveland.

Before we go any further, let me just say this — that’s nothing more than wishful thinking by the executive. If Mitchell did plan to leave, he likely isn’t telling that GM. As far as anyone knows, he hasn’t said a thing to anybody about his future.

He’s only talked about the present and what this team has accomplished. The Cavs (36-17) sit in second place in the Eastern Conference at the All-Star Break. They’ve won 18 of 20 along the way.

Teammate Georges Niang did mention Mitchell’s status at a recent event with a small gathering of fans.

“Before anyone asks, yes, he’s happy here,” Niang told the group.

OK, on to the Lakers. Mitchell is expected to be among the stars they intend to pursue in the offseason. This is just the Lakers’ way of getting the word out that they are desperate and are looking for someone to throw them a lifeline.

But playing with LeBron James today isn’t the same as it once was. Players from the younger generation are more likely to want to beat him than join him.

Plus, one source told Hoops Wire that Mitchell has no desire to serve as “third fiddle” behind James and Anthony Davis in LA. So he won’t be demanding a trade to the Lakers this summer and the Lakers have nothing to offer the Cavs. Translation: The Lakers should just move on to their next target.

Mitchell is still under contract for next season. Then he has a player option for $37.1 million in 2025-26. So yes, if he doesn’t sign a contract extension between now and July 2025, or pick up his option that summer, then the Cavs stand a chance to lose him for nothing. Not next season, but after it.

That’s an absolute worst-case scenario. And I can tell you this — it won’t happen. If Mitchell were to request a trade or not sign an extension, the Cavs would trade him.

That doesn’t seem likely, either. If I had to make a prediction right now, it’s that Mitchell will sign an extension. For starters, he’s not one of those guys who always has one eye on the door.

The best example of that came when Mitchell was still with the Utah Jazz as they underwent a rebuilding phase. They moved on from coach Quin Snyder, a Mitchell favorite, and replaced him with Will Hardy, a little-known assistant at the time.

Yet Mitchell strongly indicated he wasn’t demanding a trade and he would ride it out with Utah. Everyone would have understood if he requested a trade at that point — yet Mitchell did the opposite. If he was willing to do that in Utah, you sure would think he’d do the same in Cleveland, a team that has suddenly become among the East’s elite.

But the national media and opposing executives can’t help themselves. They want Mitchell out of Cleveland. They don’t like it when a superstar plays for a “mid-sized” market. They want all the best players on the coast — either LA, New York or Miami.

And New York and Miami are indeed the only two spots that I could see drawing Mitchell’s interest. New York because it’s where Mitchell is from and the Knicks were his team growing up. Miami because, you know, it’s Miami. And team president Pat Riley is a relentless (and often conniving) recruiter.

Let’s put it this way: I have no idea who is actually the “Eastern Conference exec” that said Mitchell is definitely leaving Cleveland, but I can make a pretty good guess.

The Real Sense

For now, all of the outside noise regarding Mitchell is just that — noise. It’s opponents trying to distract him and the Cavs from their banner year. It’s people using the national media to try to recruit Mitchell before his contract is up. It’s everyone outside of Cleveland praying and lighting holy candles that he asks for a trade.

Mitchell, on the other hand, clearly enjoys all the winning in Cleveland. He sees the team’s young core and knows that this could go on for a while, and likely get better. He loves how fans treat him like a native of the city. He recognizes that the organization will do what it takes to build around him.

You don’t always get all of those things. You may get one or two, but it’s a real luxury to have them all. You also have to throw in the fact the Cavs can pay Mitchell more than anyone else. That still does count for something, despite what you might read on social media.

Sure, it’s always nice to test free agency and to feel like a high schooler who’s being recruited all over again. Mitchell has plenty of time for that, though. He doesn’t have to do it now and many across the league actually suspect he won’t.

“New York, Brooklyn, whatever, those teams are always going to be there,” a West executive told Hoops Wire. “Maybe he will play for the Knicks someday, but I think he (signs an extension) in Cleveland. He can always sign with New York or Brooklyn late in his career and retire there. I get the sense he wants to make some money and win a lot in Cleveland.”

Despite what you’re hearing, that’s the common sense most everyone is believing at this point.

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