Fans of the Detroit Pistons (or any other team in the Eastern Conference) were not happy about the news that the Cleveland Cavaliers traded for Donovan Mitchell.
Mitchell adds another All-Star guard to the conference and joins an up-and-coming team that already made the play-in last season and now looks like a possible title contender.
It doesn’t help that the Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons are in the same division and will play each other four times next season, leading some fans to wonder if this all but ensures the Pistons will be tanking again.
But the truth is that the Cavaliers were very likely to be better than the Pistons with or without this trade, though adding Mitchell could make those matchups even more lopsided in favor of Cleveland.
I love this move for the Cavaliers, as they were in the position to do it and decided to go for it, adding an All-Star who is under contract for four more seasons. They saw their window was open and pushed in their chips, which is a bold but smart move in a league that is increasingly up for grabs.
But will the Cavaliers really be that much better? And will they be better off in the long term? These are fair questions.
The Detroit Pistons and the Cleveland Cavaliers: Now and the future
34.3 minutes- 24 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists
44% FG, 36% 3-Point (6.2 attempts per game), 86% FT
35.3 minutes- 24.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists
47% FG, 37% 3-Point (7.1 attempts per game), 81% FT
You could probably make an argument for either, but most people would choose player B. In this. case, Player A is Donovan Mitchell in his third season and Player B is Collin Sexton in his third season in the league, which was his last full year before his injury.
There are some caveats: Sexton was putting up big numbers on a bad team while Mitchell was leading his to the playoffs. The Cavaliers improved immensely and made the play-in last season without Sexton, so he has yet to prove that he can be an impact contributor on a winning team.
The eyeball test tells us that Mitchell is the better player, but is he really that much better than the Cavaliers would have gotten from Sexton? Neither of them really play much defense, and the offensive numbers are about the same.
Then there are the contracts. Mitchell will make $30, 32, 34 and 37 million over the next four seasons and hit unrestricted free agency when he is 30-years-old.
Sexton will make (estimated) $16, 17, 18, and 19 million over the next four seasons and go to UFA when he is 28-years-old.
Mitchell is the more proven and more durable player, so was probably a better long-term risk, but you could make an argument for Sexton considering his contract and the fact that it would have allowed the Cavaliers to add another impact player. They could have kept Sexton and Markkanen for about the same price, which may have made them deeper overall.
The Cavaliers also gave up three first-rounders and two swaps, so they sacrificed depth and the ability to add young players to their pipeline for the future.
I am glad the Cavs went for it, and I hope other teams do the same, as it makes the league more entertaining when more teams are trying to win. But they had better hope it works out, because they sacrificed a lot of future financial flexibility and draft assets to get Mitchell.
The Detroit Pistons hope to be in a similar position next offseason as an up and coming team with cap space and assets looking to add an All-Star to the roster.
The Cavaliers almost certainly got better in the short term, but if Mitchell only nets the Cavs a couple of more wins next season, this trade will be under a microscope.