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Donovan Mitchell among nine NBA players making noise with new teams – USA TODAY

Donovan Mitchell never advanced beyond the second round of the NBA playoffs with the Utah Jazz. But in his first season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a conference finals appearance and beyond seem possible.
Utah changed the dynamics of the East and West by trading Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Bojan Bogdanovic and acquiring Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton and a pile of first-round draft picks.
New York and Atlanta, the fourth and fifth seeds in the 2021 playoffs, struggled last season and understood the status quo wasn’t sufficient. The Hawks traded for Dejounte Murray, and the Knicks signed Jalen Brunson in free agency.
Those weren’t the only prominent players who changed teams after the 2021-22 season.
Let’s look at how the NBA’s big offseason acquisitions are faring one month into the season:
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If the Cavs make a deep run, Mitchell will be a major reason why along with talented players next to him on the court. While early, Mitchell is putting up career numbers in scoring (31.6 points per game), assists (6.1), rebounds (4.7), field goal percentage (51.3%) and 3-point percentage (43.4%). Mitchell has never averaged more than 26.4 points, never shot better than 44.9% from the field and never better than 38.6% from beyond the arc. His efficiency is outstanding. The Cavs will need to watch his minutes because at 39.1 per game that is the highest by nearly five minutes. Still, Mitchell is a driving force for what the Cavs can be.
Best game: 38 points, 12 assists, three rebounds, two blocks and one steal in a victory against the Knicks.
The Timberwolves acquired Gobert to improve their defense and help them compete in the upper echelon of the Western Conference with a roster featuring Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell. The early results are uneven. Gobert averages 14 points, 12.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks but is shooting 10 percentage points lower than last season. The 6-8 Timberwolves are 18th in offensive rating, 19th in defensive rating and this may take some time for the Timberwolves to figure out.
Best game: 23 points, 16 rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal in a victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
There’s a reason Chicago drafted Markkanen No. 7 in the 2017 draft. The Bulls believed he had All-Star potential. But he was squeezed out in Chicago as it remade its roster with Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nik Vucevic. He was traded to Cleveland and then moved to Utah where he is starring for the surprising 10-6 Jazz. He’s a versatile scorer at 7-foot-0, averaging a career-high 21.3 points plus 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists. He’s shooting 52.3% from the field and 34.7% on 3s.
Best game: 31 points (11-for-15 from the field), 11 rebounds, four blocks, two assists and a steal in a victory against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Sexton played in just 11 games for the Cavs last season after sustaining a torn meniscus in his left knee, and the Jazz are bringing him off the bench right now. While averaging just 13.3 points per game, Sexton is a scorer who averaged 24.3 points in 2020-21 and his per-36 minute scoring average is 22 points this season. And he gets to the foul line. The Jazz are limiting his minutes (just 21.8 per game) and giving him time to work his way back into significant minutes. No doubt he is a big part of the Jazz’s future as an eventual starter.
Best game: 20 points, five rebounds and two assists in a victory against the Denver Nuggets.
The Hawks were not happy about the No. 8 seed and a first-round loss last season after reaching the conference finals in 2021. Atlanta traded for Murray, and he has been a perfect addition to Trae Young in the backcourt. Murray is a triple-double kind of player (one already this season), averaging 21.5 points, 7.8 assists and 6.4 rebounds and shooting 45.3% from the field. Whether on the court with Young or with Young on the bench, Murray, an All-Star for the first time last season, can score and facilitate and make the 9-5 Hawks better.
Best game: 36 points on 14-for-27 shooting and 5-for-12 on 3s, nine assists, five steals, four rebounds and a block in a victory against New York.
Like the Hawks, the Knicks were disappointed by last season’s finish: 37-45 and in 11th place. It was no secret the Knicks planned in free agency to target Brunson, whose dad is a Knicks assistant coach. While the Knicks are playing .500 basketball this season, Brunson gives them direction with his steady play. He averages career-highs in points (19.9), assists (6.9) and steals (1.3) and shoots 49.3% from the field. He needs to lift that 29.1% 3-point percentage. It’s not all on Brunson but the big-dollar free agent has a lot of responsibility on a team trying to get back to the playoffs.
Best game: 27 points (10-for-15 from the field), 13 assists, seven rebounds, one steal and one block in a victory against the Charlotte Hornets.
As part of Utah’s purge, Bogdanovic was traded to the Pistons, and he provides the shooting Detroit needs. It hasn’t translated to the victories Detroit wants, but that’s not Bogdanovic’s fault. He averages 20.1 points and shoots 50% from the field including 41.6% on 3-pointers. Detroit is in the early stages of its rebuild and growing pains are obvious, but pieces are there with Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart. It’s not the start the 3-12 Pistons wanted but they found a reliable shooter and signed him to a two-year, $39.1 million extension that keeps him a Piston through 2024-25.
Best game: 33 points on 12-for-21 shooting, including 6-for-12 on 3s, in a loss to Atlanta.
Brogdon’s scoring and minutes per game are down compared to last season as the Celtics figure out his role as a reserve, something he hasn’t done since he came off the bench for Milwaukee in 2017-18. But he is reliable at 13.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game while shooting 47.7% from the field and 36.8% on 3s. He’s often on the court in key moments especially when the Celtics need his defense on the perimeter.
Best game: 25 points (9-for-10 shooting) and four assists in a victory against Chicago.
Wood, who missed two games with a sprained left knee, is a sixth man this season and is producing especially alongside Mavericks star Luka Doncic. Wood averages 15.8 points and 7.5 rebounds and shoots 58.7% from the field and 45.5% on limited, keep-the-defense honest 3-pointers. When the Mavs have Doncic and Wood on the court, the Mavs can score – 120.4 points per 100 possessions while allowing 110.6.
Best game: 25 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and one block in a victory against Memphis.
Follow NBA reporter Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt

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