The New York Knicks were served a brutal reminder last Sunday from Donovan Mitchell, the new star of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Mitchell destroyed the Knicks on his way to 38 points and a season-high 12 assists, in the Cavs 121-108 victory. Not only did the Knicks pass on drafting him in 2017; but they also lost their chance to trade for him last summer. Consequently, Mitchell served the Knicks a brutal reminder of what they missed out on.
In this game, the Knicks were up by nine going into the fourth quarter. They focused on their strengths. Playing in transition, scoring in the paint, and getting after it on the boards. Yet they simply had no answer to a superstar playing at an MVP-calibre level. Mitchell went into beast mode in the last quarter and the lead was erased in a flash.
Mitchell set the tone right off the jump draining five three-pointers. He totaled eight three-pointers, including an impressive four-point play, draining a deep three whilst being fouled. He had that determined look in his eyes from the jump. Cavs fans have to be very excited. As Cavs Coach J.B Bickerstaff remarked in his postgame, “Donovan was not going to let us lose this game. He is an elite Basketball player. The dude is elite.”
Mitchell playing like an early MVP Candidate for the Cavs
Mitchell is averaging 31.2 points per game. One word…domination. Even with Darius Garland sidelined for a few games, Mitchell has led the Cavs to an 8-2 record. Considering he’s the lone ball-handler and defenses are keying in on him, he’s still lighting teams up. For instance, scoring 41 against last year’s NBA-Finalist Celtics.
Furthermore, Mitchell leads the NBA in minutes, whilst being in the top five in the league in points per game, three-point field goals, and win share, per basketball-reference.
Mitchell has landed in an excellent situation in Cleveland. With elite defensive bigs like Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, and a stretch-four like Kevin Love, it allows Mitchell to focus on shot creation. When All-Star point guard Darius Garland is healthy, the Cavs look like contenders. Boasting four All-Stars in the same lineup.
When a Prime Star becomes available- best land him!
During the MSG telecast; Hall of Fame Knicks announcer Mike Breen observed, “Watching Donovan Mitchell play like this is torture for Knicks fans.” Suffice it to say, it likely wasn’t the easiest of games to swallow for their Front Office either.
From what we understand, several Knick voices were involved in the negotiations with the Jazz. When there are multiple voices, there are likely to be differing opinions. That’s why a streamlined approach and singular vision are preferable when negotiating. This was the case for the Cavs. They have a clear vision and leadership; whilst that remains unclear with the Knicks brass.
During the negotiations, they dangled RJ Barrett, then withdrew his name midway through and extended him. A perplexing negotiating ploy. Meanwhile, young wing Quentin Grimes, (who hasn’t played a single minute due to a foot injury), was made unavailable. Hindsight is 20/20. But unless the Knicks Front Office weren’t completely convinced he was the missing piece to the puzzle, Mitchell appears to be a difference-maker with a long career ahead of him. As Sunday proved.
Recalling The Knicks Carmelo Anthony trade negotiations with the Nuggets back in 2011; there was a point where the sides also reached an impasse over which assets to include. At that point, Knicks owner James Dolan stepped in and included Timofey Mozgov. His inclusion closed the deal. Consequently, Melo became a Knick. To this day he remains the best player the franchise had since Patrick Ewing in the 90s. I recall fans were upset at the Knicks giving up too many assets, but I agreed with the decision at the time. Why risk losing out on a franchise-changing star? No disrespect to Movgov- a nice role player during his career- but superstars change franchises as Melo once did. In comparison, as solid a future as Grimes appears to have, it’s a huge risk of allowing Mitchell to slip if reports are true.
Credit to the Cavs for taking advantage of that impasse and landing him, making them a contender. Meanwhile, the Knicks remain a marginal playoff team at best.
Mitchell serves Knicks a brutal reminder
This wasn’t the only time the Knicks passed on Mitchell. Phil Jackson infamously slept through Donovan Mitchell’s workout when he was Knicks President. Instead drafting Frank Ntilkina over him in the 2017 draft. A disastrous decision to be kind.
Years later, Donovan Mitchell serves the Knicks a brutal reminder that as nice as it is to have a deep roster of solid players – stars change teams’ fortunes. When the next one becomes available, the Knicks frankly need to negotiate those talks far more efficiently.
In the meantime, the Knicks will hope Grimes foot injury heals, and he can prove to be the player the Knicks hope he can be. Most importantly, they need RJ Barrett to take the next step. Barrett earned his extension with a 20 points per game season last year. However, to start this year, he continues to be an inefficient player with a very streaky perimeter shot. Traits that held him back in his young career to date. The Knicks believed in him to the point he was removed from the Mitchell talks. RJ has a bright future in the NBA, and they are banking on him developing into a cornerstone.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Knicks; signing Jalen Brunson appears to be a phenomenal decision by the Front Office, and they have possibly the deepest bench in the league. They should be a solid team this year. However, Mitchell’s star quality catapults the Cavs into a contender in the East. They appear to have struck gold, whilst the Knicks look on at what could have been.