How the Donovan Mitchell Trade affects the Pistons
By: Sean Murphy
Going into the 2022-23 season, the Pistons were already facing a stacked Eastern Conference. However, that conference just got that much more dangerous. The Cleveland Cavaliers acquired All Star guard Donovan Mitchell in exchange for an array of picks and young players. The trade package is a risk, but a calculated one by Cleveland. They will be pairing Mitchell with their two current All Stars in Jarrett Allen and Darius Garland. Not to mention their future All Star in their second year player Evan Mobley. For the Jazz, this is an opportunity to rebuild with 15 first round picks through the next ten years. And for Cleveland, it’s adding gasoline to the sparks that ignited this past season.
The question, however, is what does this trade man for the larger scope of the NBA? Let alone, where does this leave the Detroit Pistons? Cade Cunningham and crew are now in what could be the deepest division in the league. And now the young team will have to face a total of 8 former All Stars just in their division alone. The Eastern Conference was already the most competitive it has been over the past decade, and now that competition is brought to a different level. The Cavaliers missed the playoffs last season through the play in. But after this trade, they should be considered a lock, if healthy, to be in the postseason. And they will certainly compete for home court advantage too.
Cleveland is formiddable, but the Pistons are too.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are going to be inherently better with Donovan Mitchell. To pair the dynamic scoring guard alongside Darius Garland, who is a great scorer and shot creator, is simply explosive. And then throw in two pick and roll threats in Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley? One of those bigs even can stretch the floor? The ceiling is high for this core if they stick together. However, they are by no means guaranteed instant glory in this Eastern Conference. And as this Cavaliers squad will grow and get better, the Pistons will be on track to make some progression themselves.
The back court matchup between Cleveland and Detroit will be one of explosion and a size disadvantage for the Cavs. Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell both are 6’1 guards with speed and explosiveness, but lack in size and defensive prowess. Cade Cunningham showed to be a dependable defender in his first year of his NBA career, and has the intangibles to be a great defensive player. And Jaden Ivey, clocking in at 6’5, has plenty of length and size to be great on the defensive end. And with his athleticism and speed in the open court, few players are going to be able to easily blow past Ivey to the basket. That is, if he grows in his defensive game. But with the size of the Detroit backcourt, their defensive upside is inherently higher. The problem, however, is that Cleveland’s frontcourt is so elite defensively, they might not have to be.
Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen versus Jalen Duren and Isaiah Stewart?
Perhaps one matchup that will be overlooked by the casual fan is the matchup of the front court. Specifically, their ability to defend on both sides, the rebounding battle, and the physicality battle. Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen are two of the best defensive bigs in basketball. And at least right now, have the better front court. However, Isaiah Stewart has shown to be one of the best bigs at switching on the defensive end. And Detroit did just land the big man Jalen Duren out of Memphis. Mobley and Allen both are okay with taking contact in the post. But if the Pistons front court develops in the vision Troy Weaver and Dwane Casey have, Detroit could cause them fits. Both Duren and Stewart’s physicality will be difficult to match by many teams in the league. And if Duren’s skills develop, he could be a headache for Cleveland for years to come.
What makes Evan Mobley stand out among the rest of the group is his overall skillset. Not only is Mobley the defensive unicorn, but he can shoot the basketball as well. And he even is a comfortable post scorer and is able to get easy looks because of his frame. If the young big continues to grow as a shot creator, he is going to be an elite player in the NBA for a long time. He already is one of the best defensive players in the league.
When do the Pistons make their Mitchell-esque splash?
The Detroit Pistons have been persistent in their plan to build through the draft and to develop within. So far under the Troy Weaver era, this strategy has netted Detroit multiple players with All Star potential. And as Cade Cunningham will continue to blossom into the player he can become, it might make Detroit eager to surround him with talent. So when do the Pistons make their move? Well they could be in the position to make some moves as soon as next off-season. Going into next offseason, the Pistons are expected to have over 60 million dollars in cap space. Not only does that allow Troy Weaver to make deals through free agency, but also allows flexibilty through trades.
REPORT: The Pistons, Rockets, Magic and Spurs are expected to each have a minimum of $60M in cap space in 2023.
The ultimate reason why the Cleveland Cavaliers made this trade was because it was the time for them to make the jump. After performing above expectations last season, establishing culture, and identifying their core, Cleveland went all in. They took a big risk, albeit a calculated one. This roster was in the top three of the eastern conference half way through last season, and this type of talent will take them to the next step. For the Pistons, this season is about trying to take that similar type of leap. It doesn’t have to be a leap that results in a playoff appearance. But they do need to be playing meaningful basketball games. They will need to be competitive, and there will need to be apparent growth from the roster across the board. But if there’s one roster that could be poised to do so, it’s this Pistons roster.
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