Cavs 'May Have to Choose' Between Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland, per Report

Cleveland's season is over and an important offseason filled with hard choices awaits.
Apr 12, 2024; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) and guard Darius
Apr 12, 2024; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) and guard Darius / David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
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The Cleveland Cavaliers' season came to an end on Wednesday night, the result of a 113-98 Game 5 loss that clinched the Boston Celtics' place in the Eastern Conference finals. As has become the norm these playoffs, it took less than an hour for Shams Charania of The Athletic to publish a deep dive into what the future holds for the eliminated team— and hinted that the Cavs might have to make a difficult choice in regards to their star backcourt.

Charania reports rival executives believe Cleveland "may have to choose" between Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland this summer. Mitchell is eligible for a long-term, maximum-level extension worth $208 million and the expectation is that the franchise will offer it to him. He averaged 26.6 points and a career-high 6.1 assists per game this season, helping the Cavs to 48 wins and a first round series win before missing the final two games of the Celtics' series.

Should the Cavaliers successfully sign Mitchell to that contract Charania reports Garland's agent, Rich Paul, would approach Cleveland's front office "on potentially finding a new home for the one-time All-Star."

This is quite the reversal of narratives based on what's been talked about and reported over the last seven months. All season long there were rumblings and sourced reports that Mitchell did not want to be in Cleveland long-term and was likely to turn down extension talks so he could hit free agency next offseason. When the Cavaliers struggled there were television segments dedicated to wondering how the high-flying scorer would fit in with the New York Knicks, Mitchell's hometown team.

Now it seems Garland is the one who may be gone sooner rather than later. Not only did Charania report future discontent if Mitchell remains with the roster, he also reported that "there is a growing sentiment around the league that the Cavaliers will be able to position themselves to receive his commitment," on a long-term deal. In other words, it's growing more likely that Mitchell will re-sign, therefore there is a growing possibility that Garland wants out.

Such a move would make sense for Garland and probably the Cavaliers as well. He makes up one half of a dangerous offensive backcourt but him and Mitchell together make for a pretty paltry defensive duo. Additionally, things can get tricky when an offense has two ball-dominant guards. Neither Mitchell nor Garland are particularly effective off-ball threats; their skillsets aren't identical but they overlap quite a bit. It's logical for Garland to want to find a home where he can be the primary ball-handler, just as it's logical for Cleveland to want to find a partner for Mitchell who can better cover his deficiencies.

Garland just completed the first year of a five-year, $197 million contract and is 24 years old. Defensive issues aside, his offensive firepower in concert with his youth and contract status make Garland a very attractive option for a team looking for a scoring point guard. He averaged 21.7 points and 8.6 assists per game in his lone All-Star season, the one prior to Mitchell's arrival. There is a lot to like.

It seems like the Cavaliers have tough decisions knocking on their door this summer. How they go about things will affect the landscape of the league for next season and beyond.


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Liam McKeone

LIAM MCKEONE

Liam McKeone is a Senior Writer for the Breaking & Trending News Team at Sports Illustrated. In addition to his role as a writer, he collaborates with other teams across Minute Media to help define his team’s content strategy. He has been in the industry as a content creator since 2017, and prior to joining SI in 2024, Liam worked for NBC Sports Boston and The Big Lead. In addition to his work as a writer, he has hosted the Press Pass Podcast covering sports media and The Big Stream covering pop culture. A graduate of Fordham University, Liam is always up for a good debate and enjoys loudly arguing about sports, rap music, books, and video games. Liam has been a member of the National Sports Media Association (NSMA) since 2020.