Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

NBA Rumors: Cavs Star to Seek Trade if Teammate Stays?

Cleveland Cavaliers stars Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland celebrate

Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell’s time as teammates may soon come to an end, as “rival executives believe the (Cleveland Cavaliers) will have to seriously evaluate the fit… and ultimately may have to choose one or the other,” per The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Joe Vardon.

“Should Mitchell decide to stay long term…,” they add, “Garland’s representation, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, would have a conversation with Cavs officials on potentially finding a new home for the one-time All-Star.”

Darius Garland to Seek Trade if Donovan Mitchell Stays?

The pairing of Garland and Mitchell never really made sense. Not when juxtaposed with the primary reason that the Cleveland Cavaliers traded former top-10 pick Collin Sexton.

At the time, there was indeed a contract dispute, with Cleveland reluctant to sign him to a starter’s salary. This isn’t necessarily because his aggressive play style lent itself to sixth man comparisons, as Sexton started in 208 of the 218 games he played for the Cavs. Furthermore, he had averaged 22.5 points per game in his last two healthy seasons. That’s an impressive number for anyone but especially a player in his early 20s.

No, when Sexton was traded, it was about his fit with Garland more than anything else. Cleveland wanted Garland to grow into an All-Star, but felt Sexton took the ball out of his hands too much. There were also concerns about their fit at the defensive end, primarily due to their lack of size. At least that had been the story since Garland was drafted in 2019.

So when Cavs president Koby Altman pulled the trigger on a deal that sent Sexton, Lauri Markkanen and five first-round picks to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Mitchell, it raised a few eyebrows. Mitchell was undoubtedly the better player and an established star. While the same height as Sexton (6-foot-3), he’s 25 pounds heavier. However, he’d need the ball even more than Sexton. At the other end, Mitchell had a knack for generating turnovers but developed a poor defensive reputation for his low effort when guarding on-ball.

To not have foreseen what came next would have required reading the room with wine and gold colored glasses.

Darius Garland’s Demise

Even with Garland and Mitchell both giving more effort on defense, Cleveland has surrendered a lot of points to opposing backcourts. In 2023-24, opposing guards averaged 64.7 points per game against the Cavs, the 11th-highest mark in the NBA. They also shot 37.0 percent from 3, the third-highest mark in the league. Though Cleveland ranked seventh in opponent’s points per game (110.2), this was primarily due to Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen’s defensive skill.

Meanwhile, after making his All-Star debut in 2022, Garland’s momentum has come to a standstill.

Since then, he’s averaged 20.0 points and 7.2 assists per game. In a vacuum, those numbers are star-quality. In addition, they aren’t far off from his numbers from his All-Star season (21.7 points and 8.6 assists per game). However, in 2023-24, he seemed to take a step back in his development. Averaging 18.0 points and 6.5 assists per game, he was more passive, the wheels often coming off when asked to be the top scorer. To that point, in 2023-24, Garland posted his lowest field goal percentage (.446) and 3-point percentage (.371) since his rookie season.

Heading into what will be his sixth season in 2024-25, he’ll be looking to get his play back on track. If he believes getting away from another high usage guard is necessary for him to do that, it makes a lot of sense.

Lakers Trade Looming?

If traded, the Los Angeles Lakers could be the most logical destination. Not only do they have a clear need for a point guard, their go-to scorers —LeBron James and Anthony Davis —play in the front court. James and Davis are also represented by the same agency as Garland.

Notably, L.A. has been linked to Mitchell as well.


More Posts