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Fantasy Impact: The Donovan Mitchell Trade

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After the Utah Jazz traded Rudy Gobert, it was only a matter of time before the team ended up trading Donovan Mitchell as well. There was no way the Jazz could justify holding Mitchell, because the team would have been a fringe playoff team with no viable path to improving.

So, they traded Mitchell on Thursday...to the Cavaliers. Not the Knicks, who had been rumored to be in the lead to acquire Mitchell. Nope. Cleveland. The Cavs are going for it.

Let's talk about the fantasy basketball ramifications of this deal.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including NBA Writer of the Year, Best NFL Series, MLB Series, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

Donovan Mitchell's Fantasy Value Now

The Cavaliers gave up a lot of picks for Mitchell, but not really too much in terms of players, especially since Collin Sexton was hurt last year and didn't contribute much to the surprisingly good Cavs team.

Mitchell obviously steps into a starting role in Cleveland, where he'll pair with Darius Garland in the backcourt. Caris LeVert moves to the bench, where he'll be one of the most intriguing bench wings in the NBA.

Last season, Mitchell averaged 25.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 44.8% from the floor and 35.5% from three.

I think playing beside Darius Garland is probably great for Mitchell's efficiency and for his chances of competing for an NBA title, but I also think it's not ideal for him from a fantasy perspective.

Garland led Cleveland in usage rate last season at 27.8%. That's higher than guys like Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Jimmy Butler.

Mitchell had a 32.9% usage rate, with his highest-usage teammate being Jordan Clarkson at 26.8%.

Playing beside Garland should cut into Mitchell's numbers a small bit. Not a ton, and I still think he's a top 25 fantasy guy, but there's just enough concern there. There's also the fact that the team's bigs actually have offensive games, which will shift some possessions that might have ended in a Mitchell field goal attempt in Utah into possessions where Mitchell gives the ball up to Evan Mobley or Jarrett Allen.

 

How This Trade Impacts The Rest of the Cavs

Last season, Darius Garland broke out. He averaged a career-high 21.7 points per game, along with 8.6 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals on 46.2/38.3/89.2 shooting splits.

Garland's assist numbers should suffer, potentially dropping back closer to his 2020-21 numbers of 6.1 per game, because Mitchell will have the ball in his hands, limiting opportunities for Garland.

Garland took corner threes at the lowest rate of his career last year, because he was on the ball more with Collin Sexton hurt. We should see more spot up looks for Garland, with a higher rate of his field goals coming via assist. Those should, in theory, be easier looks than he got last year, so I expect to see Garland's efficiency increase, which should help save his fantasy value. Fewer assists. More efficiency and maybe more threes. It all works out to Garland being a top 40 guy in fantasy, but with the potential to get off to a slow start.

Caris LeVert is the biggest loser here. He played 19 games with the Cavs last year, starting in 10 of them. LeVert averaged 13.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 0.8 steals per game on a 43.5/31.3/74.5 shooting split. But as a starter, he averaged 15.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists. I think if we filter out the starts, we should see LeVert do something like he did in his first six games after returning from injury: 11.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 42.1% from three. A more efficient but lower usage version of Caris LeVert.

Trading away Lauri Markkanen in this deal makes Kevin Love intriguing. Love should end up as the primary backup at both the four and the five to Mobley and Allen. love's numbers were all over the place last year, with him playing under 20 minutes in 26 games. But in the games where he played between 20 and 29 minutes, which is what I'd expect if he's the primary backup big, he averaged 15.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Love is someone I'll definitely be targeting late in drafts. He's currently being ranked around 170 in the consensus rankings, but I can see him outperforming that pretty easily.

 

Where Are The Jazz Now?

I'm not sure that I'm ready to speculate on the fantasy situation with the Jazz yet, just because we don't know how close to done the team is.

Utah acquired Collin Sexton and Lauri Markkanen in the deal, who both should start for this team. But how the team handles other players on the roster will determine how much those guys play.

For instance, if Mike Conley remains in Utah, Sexton's ceiling is limited because he's splitting reps in a really intriguing backcourt with Conley and Jordan Clarkson. But if Conley gets moved, Sexton steps into the starting PG role, Clarkson starts at the two, and Sexton becomes a really intriguing fantasy play. Sexton as the starter at point guard is a top 75 player. And if Clarkson also gets moved, then...I mean, there's a case then for Sexton as a top 50 fantasy player.

Lauri Markkanen could also be a top 75 player, depending on what else happens with veterans in this front court. Will the Jazz took to deal Bojan Bogdanovic and/or Rudy Gay? If so, Markkanen will get a lot of opportunities to score just because there's not really much else on this roster.

So, when it comes to projecting fantasy value for the Jazz, let's just put a pin in it for the next week or so and see what happens. If all these trade rumors turn out to have some truth to them, the Jazz when the season tips off is going to look significantly different than the Jazz now. Sexton, Markannen, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt and Walker Kessler are probably the Jazz players who I'd stake money on being on the final roster.



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