As the basketball world waits with bated breath on any movement on the Kevin Durant trade front, there’s still plenty of intrigue around another, lesser star player’s destination for the start of the 2022-23 campaign as well.
Donovan Mitchell isn’t the same calibre of player that Durant is – and may never be – but he is a 25-year-old three-time all-star who has never averaged less than 20.5 points per game through his first five seasons in the NBA and is reportedly available in a trade.
As well, any team that would make a deal for him, would have him under control for at least the next three coming seasons and would then own his Bird Rights heading into his player option year in 2025-26.
That’s all enticing for any team, especially because acquiring Mitchell will almost certainly come at a lower cost than it would be for Durant.
Over the last week, odds from various sportsbooks have come out handicapping, generally, where they believe Mitchell will be playing next season. Here’s an aggregated glance, broken up by tiers, at what books such as DraftKings, FanDuel, Covers and BetOnline are saying where the current Utah Jazz guard will be playing next season.
Tier 1: The Knicks
Born and raised in nearby Elmsford, N.Y., and having spent a lot of his childhood in New York Mets clubhouses because of his father’s position as the Mets’ director of players relations, Mitchell is the hometown star the New York Knicks have been dying to see suit up for them since Carmelo Anthony was that guy for them.
Additionally, the Knicks have amassed a number of first-round picks that they could use to entice Jazz president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and have good, young players that could be palatable for Ainge to accept in a trade such as Obi Toppin and Quentin Grimes.
The latest reporting suggests that any sort of Mitchell deal could still be a way off, but given both the logic around the Knicks as a trade partner and their desperation to become contenders again with the big free-agent signing of Jalen Brunson, it makes sense why New York has such high odds.
Tier 2: The usual big-market suspects (plus a return)
Here in the next tier, there’s the normal culprits you see sniffing around whenever a star is supposedly available to be traded, with the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat. One would assume, in order to acquire Mitchell, the Nets would likely have to deal one of Kyrie Irving or Durant, the Lakers likely Russell Westbrook and the Miami Heat probably Kyle Lowry.
For the Jazz, acquiring past-their-prime stars in Westbrook and Lowry wouldn’t make much sense, neither would it be logical of the Jazz to leverage their future in an effort to acquire Durant when they appear headed for a rebuild. However, given the cache those three teams always have around trade talk, oddsmakers likely moved them higher up as a lot of money is likely to move in their direction.
And, of course, the possibility remains that the Jazz will opt to keep Mitchell. Even with the team looking like it’s trying to bottom out, given Mitchell’s age it’s possible they could still build around him from the ground up as a re-tooling of sorts.
Tier 3: So you’re telling me there’s a chance
This batch of four clubs are in the conversation, but would be more surprise candidates than anything.
With that said, the fit from a basketball standpoint with each team is obvious. No, Mitchell isn’t a great defender and that would hurt each of these teams, but he’s a proven scorer and would give each of these teams an immediate boost in that regard, something all four teams could use to take pressure off some of their existing stars.
In the Toronto Raptors’ case, having someone you can reliably pitch the ball to and get a basket would be very valuable and for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks and Philadelphia 76ers, Mitchell’s natural gunner abilities would take pressure off the likes of Darius Garland, Luka Doncic and Darius Garland to be the guys to score all the time.
Longshots at best
This quintet of teams likely aren’t going to make a deal happen for Mitchell, but it’s fun to imagine, nonetheless, seeing Mitchell alongside Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with the Los Angeles Clippers, or pairing up in the backcourt with LaMelo Ball or Damian Lillard with the Charlotte Hornets and Portland Trail Blazers, nonetheless.
Tier 5: The rest
None of the rest of the 16 teams are given much of a shot for various reasons, but here’s some terrifying food for thought for you: The defending champion Golden State Warriors could get a deal done for Mitchell swapping Andrew Wiggins for him.