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Cavs get the 'sun in their solar system' as Donovan Mitchell signs an extension

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) reacts in excitement. Teammates Darius Garland (10) and Max Strus (1) shout in the background
Nick Cammett
/
AP
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) celebrates against the Orlando Magic during the second half in Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, April 20, 2024, in Cleveland. Mitchell has agreed to a three-year, $150.3 million contract extension with the Cavaliers.

All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell has agreed to a three year, $150.3 million contract extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers, according to sources. It includes a player option for the 2027-28 season.

The Cavs acquired Mitchell, 27, in a trade from Utah in 2022, and the feeling around the league and among the media was that Mitchell wouldn’t stay, according to Ideastream Public Media’s sports commentator Terry Pluto.

“We heard, ‘Well, he wants to play in New York. He'll never sign in Cleveland,'" Pluto said. "'He'll be here at the most, maybe two years. And then they'll have to trade him because he's going to be a free agent after that. And besides, why would anybody want to play in Cleveland?’”

Pluto said aside from the attitude among some that Cleveland isn’t a destination for NBA stars, the NBA’s salary cap gives teams an advantage when it comes to re-signing players.

“It's not like baseball, where these guys could walk (leave their current team) and get unlimited contracts, all kinds of stuff like that," Pluto said. "Donovan Mitchell grew up in New York. The assumption was, and Donovan, probably if he could pick any team to play for, he would probably want to play for the Knicks. But the fact is, the Knicks have a whole bunch of stars already and they have a salary cap. You can't just pay everybody everything."

Pluto explained why Mitchell signed a maximum deal for three years and $150 million instead of the full maximum contract of four years and $200 million.

"He took the most amount of money he could take, but then also, he just took fewer years so in a few years he could go back and revisit this," Pluto said.

The new deal also will take Mitchell to ten seasons in the NBA, making him eligible for the next extension worth $380 million.

Pluto said Mitchell evaluated his options and realized Cleveland was the best place to be.

“He decided that ... in two years in Cleveland, they won 99 games," Pluto said. "His first year they made the playoffs. The second year they went to the second round. I think he and his agent probably looked around and said, ‘Well, where do we really want to play? Okay, so we want to play in New York, but do we want to play for the Nets, who are awful? The Knicks? Forget it,’” Pluto said.

Pluto also said Mitchell considered the roster in Cleveland.

“(Mitchell) has never gotten past the second round going back to his time in Utah, even though he's a five time All-Star," Pluto said, adding that Mitchell and his agent likely asked themselves whether the Cavs could get him further in the playoffs.

"So, you look at the roster and you realize all their key players are in their middle to late 20s. That's the sweet spot," Pluto said. "Here's a guy that discovered, ‘Cleveland’s a pretty good deal. You know, I think I'll stay here at least for a few more years and see how it goes.'"

Pluto gives credit to Cavs President Kolby Altman for putting the roster together and bringing Mitchell to Cleveland. The team believes new head coach Kenny Atkinson can take the team to the next level.

(Atkinson) has a great reputation around the NBA for developing offenses that guards like Mitchell can flourish (in)," Pluto said. "When it comes to the Cavs, Mitchell is like the sun in that solar system. The other players are the planets revolving around him and you don't want to lose your sun."

Mitchell has proved his worth, Pluto said.

“He's been a five-time All-Star, but the last two years have been the best of his pro career," Pluto said. "And then a remarkable thing is in his last two games against Orlando, he scored 89 points total and then the first two against Boston, he scored 62 before he was injured. He averaged 30 points a game in the playoffs for the Cavs and he's a big-time player. I think he’s the second-best player they've had here since LeBron."

Signing Mitchell was the top priority in the offseason for the Cavs and if the franchise hadn't locked up Mitchell, Pluto said all the negative comments from analysts and observers would've started again.

'“Nobody wants to stay in Cleveland,"' Pluto said, mimicking the pundits. "'They got a star, and they couldn't keep him. Even though they have a pretty good team, there's something wrong there. It must be in the water. Maybe it's Lake Erie, maybe it's … who wants to play in Cleveland?’”

Now, the excitement for next season can begin building.

“You bring back the guy that is the heartbeat of the team, the most popular player, and you know now how the fans are going to embrace him," Pluto said. "Meanwhile, you're just telling everybody else from New York (and) elsewhere, ‘Well, you know, Donovan Mitchell stayed.'"

Pluto said the team will have some other roster decisions to make. Multiple sources have reported All-Star guard Darius Garland could be traded if Mitchell agreed to an extension. New head coach Kenny Atkinson said Monday he loves Mitchell and Garland together.

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