At the beginning of the offseason, the Utah Jazz were believed to be unmotivated to trade Donovan Mitchell. However, according to NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, this has changed and the Jazz are now willing to listen to offers for the All-Star guard. Primarily, the New York Knicks have engaged in talks for the superstar. This deal makes sense for both sides; after trading All-Defensive Center Rudy Gobert for a huge return it appears they are looking to rebuild. According to sources, Utah wants draft capital. This is an area the Knicks are flush in with eight tradeable first round picks. Meanwhile, for the Knicks, they desperately need a superstar. New York City craves it, and the franchise has been devoid of a headline player since they traded for Carmelo Anthony over a decade ago. For a franchise desperate to get out of the cycle of mediocrity, adding a proven star approaching his prime will catapult the Knicks into relevancy in the Eastern Conference. Therefore, they have the most to lose in negotiations. Knicks need to be aggressive to land Donovan Mitchell.
According to Knicks insider Ian Begley in his recent article for SNY, trade talks are fluid between the sides and they have discussed trade possibilities. Begley contends that earlier in the discussions the Jazz asked for a combination of Mitchell Robinson and RJ Barrett and three first round picks. Knicks officials balked at that steep ask. Instead New York chose to re-sign Robinson, making him ineligible to be traded until mid-season. Furthermore, RJ Barrett is believed to be unavailable in talks. New York countered with offers that have yet to come to fruition.
From the Jazz perspective, they don’t need to rush. As of right now, Mitchell hasn’t made a trade request that would necessitate urgency. As much as he would prefer to play for his hometown team in his beloved New York, Danny Ainge holds most of the cards for Utah. Ainge is a tough seasoned negotiator, as seen by his return for Gobert.
Meanwhile, the Heat are looking to add teams to the deal to acquire enough draft capital to make a competitive offer to land him. It may be prudent for Utah to see if the Heat are able to make this happen. Mitchell would make the Heat serious title contenders if they can find a way to make a deal happen. However, New York remain in the driving seat due to the vast number of picks they can offer, whereas the Heat can only offer three firsts. With the Heat lurking, the Knicks need to be aggressive to land Donovan Mitchell.
Although the Knicks may be front-runners in discussions, I hesitate to say they hold too many cards. From the Jazz perspective they don’t need to rush, they can wait the market out.
New York remain the one team that can get a deal done without adding other teams. Brooklyn have to move Ben Simmons, and Miami don’t have the picks currently. Which is why the Knicks need to be aggressive and trade for Donovan Mitchell now whilst they have leverage.
A key factor in negotiations, is the return Danny Ainge got from Rudy Gobert. This was a startling return for the All-Star defensive stalwart that has such a limited offensive game. Yet he commanded 4 unprotected first round picks along with four role players. This undoubtedly has affected the trade market around the league. Any ask for Mitchell will be significantly higher.
It has to have affected the Kevin Durant trade talks over in Brooklyn. These deals aren’t done in a vacuum, trade returns reverberate around the league in terms of value. Ainge will surely command just short of the Empire State Building for Mitchell.
With this in mind, the Knicks are in a conundrum. They will not wish to give up too much. However, they will know better than anybody how rare it is for a player of Mitchell’s stature to become available. Another reason why the Knicks need to be aggressive to land Donovan Mitchell.
Knicks president Leon Rose traded his lottery pick in this year’s draft to clear cap room for Jalen Brunson. Acquiring future draft assets indicates the Knicks are looking to be involved in a big trade. Looking specifically at the three first round picks they have to offer in 2023, these are all heavily protected. Therefore, I can see these packaged in a trade, as they most likely won’t translate next year. Ainge wants to accelerate the rebuild next year, so packaging those picks seem certain.
New York are flush with young players who can make a strong enough offer to get a deal done. However, it really depends on who they feel they need to keep. I’d expect Cam Reddish is involved for instance. This is his prove it year for a contract, he’s not yet found a consistent role in the NBA despite his talent and being able to score at all three levels.
In order to make salaries match, Julius Randle or Evan Fournier will need to be included. Despite Utah’s need for a forward, I’d expect Ainge to prefer Fournier, who’s value is higher than Randle’s, due to Fournier’s perimeter threat.
As for young players, Utah are known to like Quentin Grimes. He did his value no harm averaging 21 points in summer league. He’d most likely be the main piece in a deal. However, with his ‘3 and D’ ability, this is a skillset the Knicks will be loathe to part with. In order to put the deal over the top, it’s likely they’ll need to include his name. Especially with Barrett out of talks.
Miles “Deuce” McBride is another name to watch for, due to his strong summer league just past.
Utah Receives: Grimes, Fournier, Reddish, McBride, Derrick Rose. 3x 2023 protected firsts, NY unprotected 2025 pick, 2027 first, multiple pick swaps.
New York receives: Donovan Mitchell.
This would work for both sides; covering Utah’s need for picks and the Knicks get their coveted star whilst protecting young studs Quickley, Toppin and Barrett.
A trade rumor floated by Marc Stein is that if the Knicks acquire Donovan, they would then acquire Russell Westbrook in a deal with the Lakers, for Randle.
According to the source Stein talked too, the reason being, that after acquiring Mitchell, they’d need to find a taker for Julius Randle. With Westbrook opting into his 47 million contract, it would motivate the Lakers to find a trade partner for Westbrook. Unless they can package him for Kyrie Irving.
New York would not keep Westbrook, but either buy him out, or move his contract to get out from under Randle’s deal. Watch this space.
Some media outlets, and Knicks fans on social media raise questions as to how Mitchell would fit on this current roster.
I’d like to try and address these:
Two guards at 6’1 is obviously not ideal in terms of size and defensive matchups. This is certainly a fair point, it would be necessary to surround them with size and defense on the wings.
However, Jalen Brunson is no liability defensively, he will hold his own. To quote Jeff Van Gundy, (a huge fan of the Brunson signing)”Brunson brings a level of competitive spirit, intelligence and seriousness that every team in the league absolutely needs.” Brunson is the type of player who can adapt his game depending on the situation. As seen in this past playoffs for the Mavericks, playing off Luka Dončić he was comfortable taking a back-seat to facilitate or carrying the scoring load.
They can form a fine partnership. Both are capable of knuckling down on both ends of the court. Plus, the Knicks defense was still middle of the pack last year despite having two deficient guards on defense in Fournier and Kemba Walker. Brunson and Mitchell are an exponential upgrade.
I’d prioritize keeping Obi Toppin out of trade discussions. His work off the ball and in transition will help spacing. Toppin doesn’t rely on the ball being in his hands to be effective. He’s able to cut backdoor for screens and lobs. His game will go from strength to strength with a point guard like Brunson, as he did with Derrick Rose prior to his injury.
This means moving Julius Randle who doesn’t fit a Donovan universe. Randle needs the ball in his hands to be effective, and is used to being a primary scorer, as opposed to a fourth option in this scenario. As the least efficient player in the league last year, It’s hard to see a fit on this roster. His greatest strength is in the paint. This will be occupied by Robinson, as well as Brunson and Mitchell- two elite scorers in the paint. Barrett’s strength is his left hand drives to the basket also. This is partly why the Knicks don’t want to lose Grimes, to better space the court.
In reality, especially with the Knicks needing talent, there won’t be a perfect fit in the outset. This shouldn’t dissuade them though. It will be a process.
It would be prudent for the Knicks front office to be aggressive. If they choose to allow Utah to shop for better offers, this may take away their leverage.
If I were the Knicks, they should prioritize this deal quickly rather than haggle over draft picks down the line. Mitchell is 25 years old, averaging a huge 25.9 points per game this year, and 26.4 points per game the season before. Even more impressively, averaging 36 points in the playoffs in 2020 and 30+ in 2021.
Mitchell is unquestionably in the top 20 players in the NBA, one of the best scorers in the game. Pairing him with Brunson who is also 25, and Barrett 22, are three young players who can develop chemistry together. Even if this isn’t a championship level team, Mitchell immediately would make the Knicks a competitive playoff team. This would facilitate an ability to add a player that can put them over the top. Passing on this opportunity- a New York bred star, it’s hard to see where the next opportunity will come up for them to become relevant. These are the reasons why the Knicks need to be aggressive to land Donovan Mitchell. As of now, they are seen as the favorites.
Now they need to close the deal.