Exploring the Miami Heat's options and competition in a Donovan Mitchell trade

Should the Miami Heat go all-in for Donovan Mitchell if the Cavaliers decide to trade the All-Star scorer?
Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics
Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics / Winslow Townson/GettyImages

The Miami Heat pursued Donovan Mitchell two summers ago, and they could have another chance to trade for the All-Star guard soon.

Because of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ struggles and Mitchell’s looming contract decision, the league is bracing for the possibility that the Cavs will shop Mitchell a little over a year after acquiring him in a blockbuster trade with the Utah Jazz.

Mitchell’s Cavaliers are a respectable 15-12, in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, but have disappointed against expectations and could tumble in the standings after Darius Garland (jaw) and Evan Mobley (knee) were ruled out for at least the next couple of weeks.

The other wrinkle: Mitchell has one year remaining on his contract (not including a player option for 2025-26) and is not expected to accept an extension or re-sign in Cleveland. Those around the team are skeptical Mitchell wants to remain with the Cavaliers long-term. The poorly hidden secret also has the potential to create problems in the locker room.

Several reports have suggested that Cleveland could explore trading Mitchell before February’s trade deadline in order to maximize his value.

According to ESPN’s NBA Insider Brian Windhorst, the Miami Heat are expected to have interest in trading for Mitchell should he become available.

Other teams would make a run. The Knicks, Nets, Bulls, Lakers, Raptors, and several others could make credible offers for the four-time All-Star.

Any front office trading for Mitchell will have to ask itself if he is (a.) worth the outgoing assets after having been traded by two teams in two years and (b.) if they will have a better chance than Cleveland of re-signing Mitchell to another contract.

The Heat could have the edge over other teams for several reasons:

  • The Heat are a known acceptable destination for Mitchell, who spends time in Miami in the offseason and participated in a pro-am here last summer. When made available two summers ago, the reported preferred destinations were New York and Miami, before Cleveland swooped in. That the Cavaliers could trade him could make teams not among Mitchell’s preferred destinations hesitant to trade for him.
  • Mitchell has a close friendship with franchise cornerstone and team captain Bam Adebayo.
  • The Heat have a clear need for a player like Mitchell, whose fit might be easier in Miami than anywhere else. 
  • The Heat can match or surpass most other trade offers from teams that could be realistically in the mix.

Let’s explore that last point a bit more. 

The Heat’s offer could top out at Tyler Herro, Nikola Jovic and two first-round picks in 2028 and 2030. If they amend protections on the 2026 pick owed to Oklahoma City, the Heat could unlock a third first-round pick for 2024. They can also include various pick swaps. The Heat are not expected to make sensational rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. available in a trade for Mitchell. 

Compare the Herro-Jovic-and-firsts package to other theoretical offers and it could be the best deal on the table for Cleveland.

Any Knicks offer would likely include either Julius Randle or RJ Barrett. Randle has three years, $82.6 million remaining on his contract (including a player option) and isn’t a clean fit with Mobley in Cleveland's frontcourt. Barrett is an interesting young player who has shown some development as a playmaker this season, but isn’t the asset that Herro is. The Knicks do have a ton of first-round picks they can include in a deal, but it’s unclear how much the Cavs – a team looking to contend – will value picks over helpful players. 

There’s also the question of Mitchell’s fit with point guard Jalen Brunson, who has blossomed into a star and building block in New York. Do the Knicks want to use their assets to pair Brunson with another small guard? They have surely seen how that worked out in Cleveland already. They could opt to bypass Mitchell and save their assets for a trade for a big man or wing that makes more sense with their roster.

Still, the Knicks cannot be counted out because of their ability to build a picks-based package.

Across the bridge from Manhatten, the Brooklyn Nets could also make an offer for Mitchell. They have several picks coming over from Phoenix, plus interesting players in Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson and Cam Thomas. While Bridges is the kind of two-way wing that Cleveland is looking for, it doesn’t make sense for the Nets to go all-in for Mitchell and trade away their best player. Meanwhile, Johnson is a knock-down shooter and versatile defender who would make sense in Cleveland’s starting lineup. 

A package of Johnson, salary filler and picks is one the Cavs would have to consider. Those future Phoenix picks (particularly in 2027 and 2029) could be interesting, too, if the Cavs decide to short the aging Suns’ future.

But if you’re the Nets, does pairing Mitchell with Bridges put you in the same class as the Celtics, Bucks and 76ers? After having recently gone all-in on Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, do they have the appetite for another star trade – and one that does not make them instant contenders at that? It’s fair to wonder how motivated Brooklyn would be to make Mitchell the face of their franchise.

In Brooklyn, Mitchell would have to be a floor raiser. In Miami, where he’d be playing with a pair of top 20 players in Jimmy Butler and Adebayo, he’d be considered a ceiling raiser. Based on Mitchell’s career so far, it’s safe to say he’s better equipped to be the latter.

“The Cavaliers know this from Donovan Mitchell,” The Athletic’s Shams Charania recently reported. “He wants to win, he wants to win big, he wants to compete for a championship – not just making it to the playoffs or the play-in tournament. That's why the Cavaliers have been under tremendous stress.”

As for some of the other teams that could be in the mix…

  • The Lakers are always mentioned in these conversations but have little in the way of draft picks or players to match the best offers from other teams. He’s also a CAA client, and not with Klutch.
  • The Bulls are in a similar position to the Lakers, without a blue-chip player to base a package around (unless Cleveland has fallen in love with Coby White and Patrick Williams over the last couple of weeks). Also, if they can’t build a contender around Mitchell quickly, then they run the risk of him walking in free agency.
  • The Raptors make some sense but the fit isn’t the cleanest as they build around Scottie Barnes and it’s unclear if Mitchell would want to extend in Toronto.

Other teams could emerge as suitors, but the Heat have the assets, positional need and confidence in their ability to re-sign him that they should be considered among the favorites to trade for Mitchell, if not the outright front-runner.

The other question, however, is whether the Heat would want to go all-in for Mitchell. There is no doubting his talent. He’s averaged more than 28 points per game over the last year-plus with the Cavs, along with 4.6 rebounds and 4.7 blocks. His ability to get to the rim with ease, draw fouls and score in the playoffs would be helpful additions to Miami’s so-so offense.

But the Heat remain high on Herro, who is averaging just two fewer points per game this season than Mitchell, is four years younger and under a team-friendly deal. The Heat’s position against the second luxury tax apron will also have to be considered, especially with Mitchell in line to sign a max salary worth north of $50 million a year. With Butler and Adebayo already under contract, the Heat could owe more than $141 million combined for just those three players in 2025-26, when the salary cap is projected to come in at around $156.2 million.

Whether the Cavs decide to make Mitchell available before the trade deadline is unclear. They could opt to play out the season, try to get healthy in time for a playoff push and revisit Mitchell’s future this summer. But the rumors are swirling as the league tries to anticipate the next star to move. Depending on how these next two months go in Cleveland, it could very well be Mitchell.