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Offseason Beat

Donovan Mitchell Traded to Cleveland: Fantasy Fallout

by Noah Rubin
Updated On: September 22, 2022, 12:39 pm ET

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According to The Athletic's Tony Jones, Utah told the Knicks that they had other offers that they liked, but New York operated as if they were the only possible landing spot for Donovan Mitchell. Danny Ainge decided that Cleveland's offer was the best that they were going to get, and he pulled the trigger on sending Don out East. Here are the full terms of the deal:

 

Cleveland Receives:

Donovan Mitchell

 

Utah Receives:

Collin Sexton

Lauri Markkanen

Ochai Agbaji

2025 Unprotected First 

2026 Pick Swap

2027 Unprotected First

2028 Pick Swap

2029 Unprotected First

 

In order to make the trade work, Sexton received a four-year, $72 million deal. Of course, you can't fully grasp what Utah is building without bringing up the Rudy Gobert trade, so let's recap that quickly.

 

Minnesota Receives:

Rudy Gobert

 

Utah Receives:

Jarred Vanderbilt

Patrick Beverley (traded for Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson)

Malik Beasley

Walker Kessler

Leandro Bolmaro

2023 Unprotected First

2025 Unprotected First

2026 Pick Swap

2027 Unprotected First

2029 First (Top-five Protected)

 

That means that Utah has:

14 firsts through 2029, six extra unprotected firsts, three pick swaps, and a very, very bad roster. That plays in well with what Ainge hopes to accomplish with a rebuild in Utah that will likely result in a tank-off for the ages between the Jazz and Thunder. A divisional rivalry, if you will.

But how does this impact fantasy basketball? This surprise trade impacts quite a few different parties across the league, so let's break down the obvious and not-so-obvious players that were affected by this blockbuster trade.

 

Donovan Mitchell

The center of the trade, Mitchell leaves a team where he was the best shot creator on the team by far. His usage rate of 32.2% last season was 6th in the league among players that played at least 40 games, per NBA.com. Among those players, only Luka Dončić and Ja Morant averaged more shot attempts per game. Most of Mitchell's fantasy value comes from points and triples. While he shouldn't have a problem still filling it up, he'll have to figure out how to share the ball with Darius Garland, who had a usage rate of 27.2% last season. Mitchell may have the ball in his hands slightly less than last season, which could decrease his points, assists, and triples a tad, but it should help with his efficiency. Plus, Mitchell seems to be happy to be out of Utah and with the contending Cavs.

Fantasy Status: Unchanged

 

 

Collin Sexton

With the two sides at a standstill, it seemed like Sexton would play this season on a qualifying offer for the Cavs before becoming an unrestricted free agent. Now, he has the guarantee of a four-year contract and will have all the freedom in the world to be a star for Utah. The other veterans on the team should be on the trade block, which would leave room for Sexton to get back to his production from two seasons ago. He was just outside the top-100 during the 2020-21 season, averaging 24.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.6 triples. With no expectation to win, Sexton should have the ultimate green light. He is in the perfect situation for a bounce back year after missing the majority of last season with a torn meniscus. 

Fantasy Status: Rising

 

 

Lauri Markkanen

It's the end of an era. RIP to Cleveland's three 7-footer starting lineup. Late season injuries prevented them from returning to the playoffs, but Markkanen was very solid in his role as a “small” forward. After slowing down his last two seasons in Chicago, Markkanen returned to top-75 value last season. While Ainge could flip him to a contender, he's only 25 and could very well stick around through the rebuild. If that's the case, he should definitely be in line to start, but with a return to power forward. His rebounding numbers should bounce back up from 5.6 per game, since he is no longer playing alongside Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley, and Kevin Love. We saw him average 18.7 points and 9.1 rebounds during his second season in Chicago. He'll have the chance to get back to that as one of the best players on a tanking team.

Fantasy Status: Rising

 

Ochai Agbaji

Cleveland selected Agbaji out of Kansas with the 14th pick in last year's draft because he was one of the most NBA-ready prospects available. Instead of joining a contending team as a role player, Agbaji will have a chance to slide into immediate playing time on a tanking team. Assuming they trade Bojan Bogdanović, he'll be competing with Talen Horton-Tucker and Nickeil Alexander-Walker for playing time on the wing. The 22-year-old will have a great opportunity to make an impact as a rookie now, especially after a strong Summer League where he averaged 15 points, 4.8 boards, and 1.3 steals. 

Fantasy Status: Rising

 

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Darius Garland

After making his first All-Star appearance last season, Garland will play next to a shot-creating shooting guard that loves the ball in his hands. While Garland is still incredibly talented, some of his shots will likely be given to Mitchell. However, his assist numbers and efficiency should take a step up. He finished as an early 4th round value last season while averaging 3.6 turnovers per game. Even if he loses out on some points, he could average over nine assists and around three turnovers per game. That would certainly give his fantasy value a boost.

Fantasy Status: Slightly Rising

 

Caris LeVert

Things were looking good before the trade for LeVert. He was a 5th round fantasy asset just two seasons ago, and he was either in line to start for the Cavs or be the 6th man behind Sexton. Now, he'll likely be the 6th man behind Donovan Mitchell with Isaac Okoro starting to provide some perimeter defense. Big difference. LeVert's numbers dropped after being traded from Indiana to Cleveland last season, but he was at least starting. He'll still play a key role for Cleveland as a bench scorer, but they'll look to Mitchell and Darius Garland for offense far more than they will LeVert.

Fantasy Status: Falling

 

Isaac Okoro

Last season, Darius Garland's Defensive Box Plus/Minus was -0.8. Donovan Mitchell's was -0.3. Caris LeVert's was -1.2. Okoro's was 0.7. Needless to say, it could be a defensive mess even with Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen in the frontcourt if they start LeVert. Okoro has been a starter the majority of his career, but he hasn't finished in the top-200 through his first two seasons. He averaged 0.8 steals and 0.8 triples per game last season. Even if he does play 30 minutes per game again, his game isn't fantasy friendly, but Cleveland will likely rely on him to knock down open triples when Mitchell gets double-teamed. That could open up an opportunity to see a fantasy boost if he hits the shots. Could we see him average 1.5 triples and 1.0 steals? Perhaps. Will that make him a valuable fantasy commodity? Probably not.

Fantasy Status: Slightly Rising

 

Bojan Bogdanović, Mike Conley, and Jordan Clarkson

It's all but guaranteed that they'll be traded before the season begins, possibly within the next few weeks. Wherever they end up, they'll be better off on a contender than wasting away in Utah. With Clarkson due $13.3 million, Bogdanovic due $19.5 million, and Conley due $22.7 million, teams won't be interested in trading for them unless they plan on playing them. Perhaps a trade with the Lakers is still in play.

Fantasy Status: Let's see where they end up, but please get them out of Utah

 

The Rest of the Jazz

We need to be mindful of drafting Jazz players this season. The team is focused on losing to increase their lottery odds. That means we could see players full on shut down for the season over minor injuries. Especially if they're playing too well.

Fantasy Status: Beware the Tank!

 

Cam Reddish

While Reddish seemed to deny requesting a trade in the comments section of the Knicks' Instagram, it was reported that he won't be in the rotation for New York this season. A three-way deal between the Knicks, Lakers, and Utah would've been a clear path out of town for him to get another fresh start, especially with the Lakers' reported interest in him. Now a path to a new team seems off the table. 

Fantasy Status: Non-existent in New York

 

Jalen Brunson, RJ Barrett, and Julius Randle

The Knicks' trio (that has been deemed the “Mid 3”) will stay intact. After Barrett's name was tossed into trade rumors for Mitchell recently, his four-year, $120 million deal will keep him in New York for a long time. Randle seemed to be a prime trade candidate this off-season after a fall from grace last season, but Utah wasn't interested. Brunson signed in New York and would've been the primary ball handler, but a trade for Mitchell would've seen him in a role similar to the one he had in Dallas next to Luka Dončić. With the Knicks staying put on the Mitchell front, this will be the Knicks' core for the foreseeable future. 

Fantasy Status: Unchanged

 

Russell Westbrook, Myles Turner, Buddy Hield

The Jazz and Pacers were reported as the two teams most likely to make a deal for Westbrook. Now that Utah is in full tank mode, the Lakers will probably be waving Russ in front of their faces until they take him. However, they'd presumably rather have Hield and Turner over the guys the Jazz have. How long until Lakers' Twitter gets their names trending again? It seems like a Westbrook trade (and buyout) could happen sooner rather than later, even if the Lakers have to settle for what the Jazz have to offer.

 

Cleveland vaulted themselves into the upper echelon of Eastern Conference teams, while Utah solidified themselves as a bottom feeder. A true win-win scenario, but there should be more dominoes that fall now that both Mitchell and Kevin Durant are off the table for teams to acquire.

Noah Rubin

Noah is a recent college grad who loves all things basketball. You can find him on Twitter @NoahRubin22 for NBA insights that hopefully aren’t too biased towards his Atlanta Hawks.