Nets, Lakers have ‘their offer ready’ if Donovan Mitchell leaves Cavs

Tony Nguyen | Los Angeles Lakers
May 16, 2024

Donovan Mitchell‘s uncertain future has remained a constant storyline throughout the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ 2023-24 campaign. With one year left on his contract after this season, the five-time All-Star has yet to commit to an extension, leading to speculation that he could be traded this summer.

Those rumors are picking up steam with Cleveland one game away from elimination, and the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers are among the teams preparing to make a run at the star guard, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

“The NBA, especially beginning with what Donovan says at the end of the season, is paying very close attention because multiple teams would love to make a huge offer to the Cavs if Donovan does not choose to extend his contract,” Windhorst said Wednesday. “There are a number of teams that have their offers ready.”

Three teams expected to lead Donovan Mitchell sweepstakes

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Windhorst said three teams would be “at the top of the list” of Mitchell trade suitors if he doesn’t extend in Cleveland: the Lakers, Nets and Miami Heat. He dismissed the New York Knicks as a potential destination.

“The Knicks are trying to win this Eastern Conference series, but certainly across the river there in Brooklyn,” he said. “The Nets don’t control their drafts. Their future drafts are all controlled by the Houston Rockets. They are not in a rebuild mode. They want to build back up. They have the Suns’ draft assets, and the Suns’ draft assets could potentially be very valuable three or four years from now.”

“They also have some good young players, and it’s in the Eastern Conference, and Donovan Mithcell is from the New York area.”

Can the Brooklyn Nets win a bidding war?

If the report is accurate, it won’t be the first time Mitchell has expressed interest in playing for Brooklyn. The five-time All-Star had the Knicks, Nets and Heat as his preferred destinations in 2022 before the Utah Jazz traded him to Cleveland, according to The Athletic’s Tony Jones.

With seven tradable first-round picks – including unprotected firsts from Phoenix in 2027, 2028 and 2029 – the Nets have the assets to outbid the Lakers and Heat. Los Angeles will have three first-round picks available to trade come draft night, while Miami will have two.

However, with one year left on his contract, Mitchell will have leverage to direct a trade if he chooses. Whether he would put on an all-out campaign to force himself to one team remains to be seen.

Despite the rampant trade speculation, the Cavaliers reportedly remain confident in their ability to re-sign Mitchell. Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert voiced that optimism in March during an interview with the Associated Press. However, when asked about Gilbert’s comments, Mitchell remained non-committal about signing an extension.

“I got a lot of things to focus on outside of that right now,” he said. “I’ve got to focus on myself, getting back for this group, focus on us getting over this stretch, continuing to be ready when it comes time… So, I’ll handle that when it comes, and I understand you gotta ask that question, and I’m gonna give you the same answer.”

While many within league circles expected Mitchell would move on from Utah once his contract expired, he never explicitly asked for a trade from the Jazz. He’s taken a similar approach in Cleveland, brushing aside questions about his future and focusing on the current season.

If Mitchell continues to turn down an extension, the question becomes: will Cleveland hold onto him next year and risk him walking in free agency? It’s a question that has massive implications for the Nets, who project to have over $50 million in cap space in 2025. Mitchell hitting free agency and giving Brooklyn a chance to sign him without giving up any assets would be the team’s dream scenario.

All of these hypotheticals remain in question until Cleveland’s season is over. That shouldn’t be long, with Mitchell ruled out for Wednesday’s Game 5 matchup with the Boston Celtics.