How J.B. Bickerstaff firing could impact Lakers trade for Donovan Mitchell

The Cleveland Cavaliers have parted ways with head coach J.B. Bickerstaff. What does that mean for the Los Angeles Lakers trading for Donovan Mitchell?
Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Two
Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Two / Jason Miller/GettyImages

The Cleveland Cavaliers have shaken up the NBA by announcing the firing of head coach J.B. Bickerstaff. It's a move that could have a significant impact on the Los Angeles Lakers, which now have high-level competition in the hiring process for a new head coach.

The reverberations of the Bickerstaff firing will not be felt exclusively in the coaching search, however, as the decision could also impact the Lakers' pursuit of a top trade target.

The Lakers have been linked to Cavaliers shooting guard Donovan Mitchell in trade rumors. It's been a captivating possibility to consider, as Mitchell is one of the most explosive scorers in the Association, as well as a proven postseason performer.

Unfortunately, the firing of Bickerstaff may spell the end of the Lakers' dream of acquiring Mitchell in 2024.

In an appearance on FanDuel TV's Run It Back, NBA insider Shams Charania provided an explanation as to how the firing of Bickerstaff may lead to a long-term commitment to the Cavaliers from Mitchell.

"J. B. Bickerstaff is out as head coach in Cleveland, and sources tell me that Kenny Atkinson and James Borrego are among the leading candidates to replace Bickerstaff as head coach of the Cavaliers...There is a lot of optimism around the Cavs that they're going to get a commitment from Donovan Mitchell on a four-year, $208 million extension this offseason."

Mitchell signing a four-year extension with the Cavaliers would inevitably impact the Lakers' interest in acquiring him by rendering it effectively irrelevant.

A trade for Donovan Mitchell may no longer be in the cards for the Lakers

With rumors that Bickerstaff and Mitchell were at odds, this seems like a clear commitment from the Cavaliers to their All-Star player as the franchise cornerstone. It's certainly understandable considering Mitchell helped lead the team to its first playoff series win without LeBron James since 1993.

Unfortunately, that may also mean that James and Mitchell will not be teammates during the 2024-25 NBA season.

Cleveland paid a hefty price to acquire Mitchell in 2022, sending Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, Ochai Agbaji, three unprotected first-round draft picks, and two pick swaps to the Utah Jazz. Since his arrival, the Cavaliers have made the Playoffs twice and won a postseason series for the first time since 2018.

Perhaps the best perspective on how important Mitchell has been to the Cavaliers is the fact that, prior to 2023-24, Cleveland hadn't won a playoff series without James since 1993.

With all of that being said, the Lakers shouldn't completely write a potential trade off quite yet. It remains possible that Mitchell will decline the the Cavaliers' offer of a contract extension, thus resulting in Cleveland's front office opting to explore other options.

Mitchell has a player option for the 2025-26 season, and the Cavaliers may ultimately decide not to play with fire by going through 2024-25 with his future undecided.

In the event that such transpires, the Lakers would likely be right back in the hunt for one of the most prolific scorers of his generation. Mitchell, who's still just 27 years of age, is already third in NBA history in career playoff games with at least 50 points scored, and has averaged upwards of 25.9 points per regular season game in each of the past four seasons.

For the time being, however, the Lakers are likely to spend more time exploring other options as the Cavaliers sort out what the future may hold for Mitchell in Cleveland.