Donovan Mitchell & Darius Garland – Locked In Long-Term

Owen Alles, Sports Editor

In the 2022 off season, the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled the trigger on a massive trade for their franchise. They shipped off Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji, Collin Sexton, three first round picks and two pick swaps to the Utah Jazz in return for All-Star Shooting Guard Donovan Mitchell. A very bold move, people initially questioned if the Cavaliers and general manager Mike Gansey gave up too much.

This has proved to be anything but the truth as they currently hold the fifth seed in the East after failing to make the playoffs last year. 

Mitchell is currently on pace for career highs in points per game (28.4), field goal percentage (48.4 percent), 3-point percentage (39.5 percent) and scored a career and league-wide season high 71 points on Jan. 2. 

Playing with an excellent point guard like Darius Garland has done wonders for his scoring and efficiency, and the pressure that Garland puts on a defense has freed up Mitchell to do what he does best: score. Garland has been having a fantastic season in its own right, shooting the best 3-point percentage of his career (39.8 percent),averaging a team leading 7.8 assists and settling into the role of the perfect facilitator that this team needs. 

The marriage of Mitchell and Garland in the backcourt has no doubt been an amazing success for the Cavaliers as the team prepares for a playoff run. Expect this new couple to stick together for a while.


Dejounte Murray & Trae Young – Going OK

In order to keep pace with their rivals in the East after a disappointing 2021-22 campaign and give budding star point guard Trae Young some much needed help, the Atlanta Hawks packaged Danilo Gallinari, three first round picks and a pick swap to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for promising young shooting guard Dejounte Murray. Murray is a talented young player, evidenced by his first All-Star team selection last season as well as him leading the league in steals per game. This move was expected to raise the Hawks’ back out of the Eastern Conference Play-In game and back into contention, fixing their defensive issues which plagued the team in 2021-22. 

The return on investment the Hawks have been seeing with Murray is a bit of a mixed bag. The Hawks ranked 21st in opponent points allowed last year and since the addition of Murray, they have not improved and are still ranked 21st this year; however, as the season has gone on, the duo has gelled much better. The ball movement has been getting better and when Young has missed games, Murray has stepped up just as he did on Jan. 30 when he had a 40 point, 8 rebound and 7 assist game against the Portland Trail Blazers in the Moda Center. The Hawks are beginning to move up the rankings, now holding the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and if they continue to improve down the stretch, could surprise people in the playoffs.

Donovan Mitchell (left) and Darius Garland (right) share a handshake on the court

Karl-Anthony Towns & Rudy Gobert – Going Horrible 

While other new NBA duos have been paying dividends early, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ trade for Rudy Gobert this offseason has most definitely not been. Although the idea of creating an elite offensive and defensive frontcourt with the pairing of Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns may have sounded great on paper, it simply has not come to fruition on the court. 

The Timberwolves traded Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Leandro Bolmaro, Walker Kessler, Jarred Vanderbilt, 4 first round picks and a pick swap to the Utah Jazz in order to acquire Gobert. The consensus among the NBA community was that this was far too much. Gobert is averaging his lowest points per game since his third season (13.4), his lowest blocks per game since his rookie year (1.3) and the worst defensive rating of his career (109). 

Although it isn’t Gobert’s fault that Towns has been injured for a majority of the year, his numbers when healthy have not been great either. Having Gobert take away some of his space in the lane has led Towns to average his least amount of points per game since his rookie year (20.4), second lowest field goal percentage of his career (50.5) and far and away the lowest three point percentage of his career (32.5 percent). 

The Timberwolves are almost certainly regretting this trade already and Towns and Gobert are most likely headed for a breakup if they don’t make it out of the play-in games. They currently hold the ninth seed in the West, and with Towns continuing to be out they might fall even farther down the proverbial playoff ladder.