AP source: Cavaliers acquiring All-Star G Mitchell from Jazz
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Donovan Mitchell is going east.
The All-Star guard is on his way to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who acquired one of the NBA’s best scorers Thursday in a blockbuster trade with the Utah Jazz, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.
Cleveland is sending guard Collin Sexton, forward Lauri Markkanen and rookie guard Ochai Agbaji along with three unprotected first-round picks to the Jazz, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it still must be approved by the league.
ESPN was the first to report Mitchell’s exit from Utah.
Sexton, who played in just 11 games last season before undergoing knee surgery, will sign a four-year, $72 million contract as part of a sign-and-trade agreement with Utah, his agent Rich Paul confirmed for AP.
There had been speculation for months that Mitchell might get moved, and it appeared the New York Knicks were the frontrunner for him. But when talks with Utah broke down, Cleveland jumped in and general manager Koby Altman added a player capable of pushing the Cavs into title contention.
Cleveland hasn’t made the playoffs since 2018, when LeBron James led the Cavs to their fourth straight Finals.
The 6-foot-1 Mitchell can take over a game, and he’ll give Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff a player to run his offense through as well as another late-game option.
The Cavs are also giving up unprotected first-round picks in 2025, 2027 and 2029 and swapping picks in 2026 and 2028, said the person.
A three-time All-Star in five seasons with Utah, the 25-year-old Mitchell is one of the league’s elite backcourt players and his acquisition could push the Cavs, who won 44 games last season — a 22-game improvement — with a young nucleus, among the top teams in the loaded Eastern Conference.
Mitchell, who averaged 25.9 points per game last season, will pair in Cleveland with All-Star point guard Darius Garland. He’ll also play with All-Star center Jarett Allen and forward Evan Mobley, who had a strong rookie season averaging 15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks.
Mitchell signed a five-year, $163 million contract in 2020 and is under contract through the 2026 season.
Cleveland also has Garland and Allen locked up to long-term deals.
The 23-year-old Sexton was hoping to make a comeback this season with the Cavs, who couldn’t work out an extension with him last season. He was a restricted free agent this summer, but there was little market for him.
Sexton’s a proven scorer (he averaged 24.3 in 2020), but became expendable for Cleveland due to Garland’s development and the club’s talented frontline.
The 7-foot Markkanen averaged 14.8 points and 5.7 rebounds in his first season with the Cavs, who made the play-in round last season before losing to Brooklyn and Atlanta.
Agbaji was drafted by Cleveland with the No. 14 overall pick this year after helping Kansas win a national championship.
This is the second major trade during this offseason for Utah, which started its rebuild in July by trading All-Star center Rudy Gobert to Minnesota.
The Mitchell trade gives Utah even more draft capital. The Jazz now have at least 13 first-round picks, plus the two swaps that were part of this deal, over the next seven drafts. The Jazz currently have three first-round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029.
But the Jazz are starting over now, in so many ways.
The re-do in Utah started in early June when Quin Snyder — who had guided the Jazz to six consecutive playoff appearances, but never got them out of the second round — decided to end his eight-year run as coach.
The last straw may have been how this past season started with great promise before fizzling. Utah started 7-1 and was 26-9 at one point but went just 25-28 after Jan. 1.
Utah eventually hired Will Hardy to coach, though there was still speculation then about whether the Jazz would break up the 1-2 punch of Mitchell and Gobert. Now, they’re both gone.
The Mitchell-Gobert relationship was clearly strained at times, going back to at least the start of the pandemic, when Gobert was the first NBA player to test positive for COVID-19 and Mitchell tested positive a day later.
They now get new starts elsewhere, and the Jazz are in the full throes of a rebuild — just as Cleveland was not long ago.
AP NBA Writer Tim Reynolds contributed from Miami.
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