Nets Forward Sends Strong Warning to Donovan Mitchell After Blockbuster Trade

Ben Simmons and Royce O'Neale

Getty Ben Simmons (L) and Royce O'Neale of the Brooklyn Nets attend a game between the Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers during the 2022 NBA Summer League

When the trade saga between Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets officially ended, it seemed the rosters for the 2022-23 season were set. Most teams have transitioned into rounding out their rosters as they prepare for the opening of NBA training camps in September.

But that wasn’t the case for the Utah Jazz, who have been the most active team during this summer’s free agency period. On September 1, Jazz president Danny Ainge dealt their superstar Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a substantial trade package, as first reported by ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski.

“After the New York Knicks temporarily walked away on talks Monday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers aggressively pursued and acquired three-time All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell in a trade with the Utah Jazz on Thursday, sources told ESPN,” Wojnarowski writes per ESPN.

“The Cavaliers are sending the Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, rookie wing Ochai Agbaji, guard Collin Sexton, three unprotected first-round picks (2025, 2027, and 2029) and two pick swaps (2026 and 2028) for Mitchell, sources said. Sexton has agreed on a four-year, $72 million sign-and-trade deal to join the Jazz, his agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, told ESPN.”

After the trade, Nets forward Royce O’Neale, who was Mitchell’s teammate in Utah, sent the newest member of the Cavs a warning after his trade to Brooklyn’s conference rival.

“Welcome to the east [Donovan Mitchell], I’m locking that up,” O’Neale wrote on Twitter on September 1.

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Jazz Have Remained Active This Offseason

The Jazz remained active during this free agency period. Ainge and Utah’s front office had a clear initiative to blow up the team during the offseason after another disappointing exit to the playoffs last season, getting eliminated by a lower-seeded Dallas Mavericks team in the first round.

Ironically, it was the Nets trading for O’Neale that started the rebuild in Utah after Nets general manager Sean Marks traded away a first-round pick to acquire him on June 30.

A day later, on July 1, the Jazz traded their All-Star Center Rudy Gobert for a historic number of draft picks. Ironically, it was the Gobert trade that caused the Nets to up the asking price for a potential Kevin Durant trade which contributed to his decision to rescind his trade request.

The fire sale in Utah finally concluded when the Jazz traded Mitchell to the Cavaliers on September 1, ending his five-year tenure with the team that drafted him in 2017.

Mitchell Trade Heats up Competition in East Even More

With the addition of Mitchell to the Cavaliers, the competition in the Eastern Conference just got stiffer.

The defending Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics bolstered their roster this offseason after making their first NBA Finals appearance since 2010. The addition of former Indiana Pacers star Malcolm Brogdon will only make their rotation deeper next season.

The Philadelphia 76ers will have their first full season with former NBA Most Valuable Player James Harden in 2023. Harden was acquired in a midseason trade with the Nets on February 10. They will also add defensive guru PJ Tucker to the roster, who was a key in the Miami Heat making it to the Eastern Conference Finals last season.

The Nets will also be among the top contenders in the conference after a season filled with turmoil put the future of the franchise in jeopardy. Adding Ben Simmons to a returning superstar duo of Kyrie Irving and Durant will be sure to make some noise in the conference.

The race to see who the top dog in the East will be is officially on.

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