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NBA Futures: Betting Reaction to Cavaliers Trade for Donovan Mitchell

NBA Futures: Betting Reaction to Cavaliers Trade for Donovan Mitchell article feature image
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Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz.

The Cleveland Cavaliers stunned the NBA on Thursday, trading three unprotected first-round picks, two swaps, Colin Sexton (via sign-and-trade), Lauri Markkanen and first-round selection Ochai Agbaji to the Utah Jazz for All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell. 

The move sent shockwaves through the league as most league sources expected the Knicks to end up with the All-Star guard once the Jazz made it known they would deal the 25-year-old. New York had explored deals for several weeks, but the Knicks’ signing of RJ Barrett to a massive extension was seen by some as a shot in negotiations to try and strong arm the Jazz. 

Utah traded Mitchell to the Cavs the same day the Knicks announced the Barrett extension. 

So, how should we bet in the aftermath of another titanic NBA offseason trade?

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Cleveland Cavaliers

The markets reacted swiftly to the news, with the Cavs’ win total jumping from an average of 42.5 to 47.5 with both 46.5’s (BetRivers) and 48.5’s (PointsBet) also in the market. The Cavs’ division price jumped to +285 in some places and the Milwaukee Bucks dropped to -275 in select shops. 

Overall, the Cavs’ title odds took a huge leap from +10000 to +3000 at BetMGM. 

With the market having already shifted, the best value is probably to wait and see how far hype carries it. If the Cavaliers approach 49.5 wins, there’s probably value on the under despite how good the Cavs were when fully healthy last season. 

Playoff odds have already jumped to -310 at FanDuel. 

If you want to bet on the Cavs’ upside, the best bet is likely to win 50-plus games at FanDuel at +175. Betting the Division at +300 is hard to back considering that the Bucks return all their key pieces and have won the division each year Mike Budenholzer has been coach. 

If it’s not the Bucks, though, it’s the Cavs. So if you want to simply bet on random injury variance on Milwaukee, the +300 is a good return.

As for playoff futures, it’s hard to see a team as young as the Cavs getting past the elites in the East. The Cavaliers would likely be underdogs to the Bucks, Sixers, Nets, Celtics and arguably to the Heat. 

This ramps up a lot of the pressure for a young team. Much of your betting on the Cavaliers should be based on how good you think Evan Mobley is. If he projects as a transcendent force on both ends (and he was arguably already transcendent defensively last year), then you should take some shots with the Cavs at 30-1. 

However, in the East conversation, the Celtics, Bucks and Sixers have to come before the Cavaliers in any discussion and the Nets, Hawks and Heat have arguments to, at the very least, be on the Cavs’ level, if not better outright. 

I’ll be watching the market to see if there’s further reaction. If the win total gets closer to 50 or if the Bucks’ division odds come down, I’ll fade the trade reaction. 

From a basketball perspective, the fit is ideal. Mitchell slides next to Darius Garland on a team stocked with defenders and finishers. Jarrett Allen is 60% of Rudy Gobert defensively and 150% of Gobert offensively. Mobley is 75% of Gobert defensively and 130% of Gobert offensively. They’ll both thrive from Mitchell’s playmaking, a skill he has let slide in recent years. 

The Cavs can cover for Mitchell’s defensive vulnerabilities and Mitchell boosts their at-times anemic offense. His ability to both finish in pick-and-roll and hit pull-up 3’s is hugely valuable.

The Cavs’ depth takes a hit here and they’ll need Isaac Okoro to make a leap that he has needed to for years. Giving up Agbaji was a “sore point” in discussions, according to league sources. There are holes, but ultimately it’s a big upgrade that the Cavs got at their biggest area of weakness, on-ball offense. 

Utah Jazz

Predictably, the bottom fell out on Jazz futures as soon as the trade was completed. 

Win totals fell to between 27.5 (FanDuel) and 25.5 (PointsBet). The Jazz don’t have a trainwreck of a roster despite adding 13 first-round picks and swaps this offseason. 

Adding Sexton in a sign-and-trade takes on money, but gives Utah an on-ball scorer next to Mike Conley. Bojan Bogdanovic is still on the roster. Lauri Markkanen was quite good last season and Agbaji shows promise. The Jazz could very well be decent this season … if they choose to be. 

There seems to be a very good chance the Jazz will attempt to tank and acquire a top pick in what is a highly regarded draft with Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson headlining. Conley, Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson are all players who could be used to take on salary, like, say, Russell Westbrook with the Jazz looking to add even more picks. 

No amount of talent can overcome an initiative from the front office to play for draft positioning. With a +104 on under 27.5 wins at FanDuel, there’s value to betting on Utah’s long-term aspirations.

New York Knicks

Oh, the Knicks. 

Multiple league sources indicated Thursday that although the Knicks overplayed their hand in trying to strong arm a deal out of the Jazz and ultimately losing Mitchell, the result might be for the best.

“They didn’t give away the farm for a guy who hasn’t made the conference finals,” one league source said. 

It’s another star player the Knicks seemingly missed out on, but ultimately they may be better off keeping their assets and trying to build organically with lesser expectations than immediately leaping into a playoff pursuit. They still hope Jalen Brunson can be the franchise player they paid him to be and they retain the good young players they would have sent in a Mitchell deal. 

The Knicks’ win total stays at 39.5, with their odds to miss the playoffs at -180. The Knicks are likely still stuck behind the Celtics, Sixers, Bucks, Nets, Heat, Raptors, Hawks, Cavaliers and Bulls at the very least, giving them just one slot to make the play-in. They’d then have to win two road games to make the playoffs. 

There’s value in laying the -180 on the Knicks to miss the playoffs. Sorry, Knicks fans, basketball winter lasts another year at least. 

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