An Excited Donovan Mitchell In Cleveland Means Accelerated Growth For The Cavs

Cavaliers All-Star guards Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell embrace after Mitchell was introduced as a member of the team. (Rob Lorenzo/ESPN Cleveland)

Cavaliers All-Star guards Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell embrace after Mitchell was introduced as a member of the team. (Rob Lorenzo/ESPN Cleveland) Rob Lorenzo/ESPN Cleveland

An excited Donovan Mitchell in Cleveland means accelerated growth for the Cavs

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Editor's note: Danny Cunningham is a writer at

After what many would deem a successful season for the Cleveland Cavaliers, one that saw the team win 44 games and narrowly miss out on the playoffs by virtue of losing back-to-back NBA Play-In Tournament games, the team could have counted on internal growth for its next step towards championship competitiveness.

Instead, the Cavaliers introduced newly acquired All-Star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell to The City of Cleveland on Wednesday afternoon.
As Mitchell sat on stage with team President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman and head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, it represented a few things about the franchise.

The fact that this day happened at all represented one of the biggest moves the team has made in its history. The trade for Mitchell ranks up near the top of that leaderboard along with the trade for Shawn Kemp prior to the 1997-98 season with both of those looking up at the team’s deal for Kevin Love in 2014. The Cavaliers took a step forward this offseason that no one would have blamed them for not taking.

If the team decided to rely upon second-year big man Evan Mobley evolving into an All-Star and continued growth for All-Stars Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen, the Cavaliers still would be flaunting one of the best young cores in the NBA. Add in potentially returning restricted free agent Collin Sexton, who missed all but 11 games last year with a knee injury, and the Cavs had legitimate reason to believe that the next step would be a very positive one in the forward direction.
Instead, the Cavaliers are betting on that growth, and the addition of Mitchell, vaulting them into contention for a championship sooner than anyone expected three months ago.

"I mean, we're still super young. We have to go through some trials and tribulations," Altman said at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Wednesday. "But when you talk about adding Donovan, who has played 39 playoff games, that enhances our acceleration. I'm excited. I think we've earned the opportunity to try to compete against the best in the world. It's an exciting group.”

This trade made by Altman is a bet in a few different ways. It’s a bet that Mitchell will want to continue to be in Cleveland long term, as he has three more guaranteed seasons on his contract. It’s a bet that Mobley will continue to grow into a star player. Lastly, and most importantly, it’s a bet that this version of the Cavs can have both regular and postseason success both immediately and in the future.

The narrative surrounding Mitchell this offseason was twofold. First, that he wanted out of Utah, where the Jazz had already dealt All-NBA big man Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and secondly that Mitchell wanted to be sent to the New York Knicks, the team that he grew up just 25 miles from.
When Mitchell was dealt, it came as a surprise to only those that weren’t paying attention. Of course, the destination of Cleveland was a surprise, but it’s one that made the most sense from a basketball standpoint, and it was a surprise that delighted Mitchell.

In his opening statement, Mitchell confirmed the report from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that he was on a golf course celebrating when he heard the news.
That may not have been what many expected the reaction to be, considering the thought that Mitchell and the Knicks were thought to be perfect partners.
“I thought it was New York. I'm not gonna lie to you,” Mitchell said. “Obviously, who doesn't want to be home next to their mom? I haven't lived at home since I was in eighth grade. I've been in boarding school and what not, so it would've have been nice.”

But once the situation was realized for Mitchell, none of that mattered any more.
“Like I said, for me, once I found out I got traded and what we are going into, that trumped everything for me,” Mitchell said. “I'm truly excited to be here, to be part of this group to be part of this city. You all saw I had the Cavs jersey on when I was five, six, whatever it was. I was a LeBron fan, but I was a Cleveland fan. My mans (Cavs in-arena host Ahmad Crump) over there saying Cleveland Cavaliers, like I was saying that at the house. It's crazy how life comes full circle. Being able to be a part of that, between the fire and the intros, I remember the little things. I love playing in this arena. To be here, I'm truly excited.”

Mitchell has plenty to be excited for. He goes from a situation that likely was maxed out in Utah to one in Cleveland that has no idea what its ceiling can be. The unknown of that is a great thing for the organization and Mitchell at this point, even if so much of that unknown depends on just how good Mobley becomes.  

Ultimately, if the Cavaliers win at the level they anticipate, as quickly as they do anticipate, this is a trade that will be looked at years from now that ushered in the most successful era of Cavaliers basketball that didn’t directly involve LeBron James. That would likely mean Mitchell is a member of the team for more than just the three years remaining on his deal.