Donovan Mitchell-Knicks trade talks rekindled

2022-08-21 00:11:17 By : Mr. Shangguo Ma

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The Knicks are still trying to find a way to bring Donovan Mitchell home in a way that makes sense. 

According to multiple industry sources, the Knicks were turned off by Utah team president Danny Ainge’s initial demands, when he asked in July for a package of seven first-round picks and players. Talks died, but recently there has been renewed back-and-forth. 

The Knicks’ major concern, according to sources, is giving away too many future assets, which could leave them stuck in an area far below championship contender. 

Adding Mitchell, they believe, would be good enough for a 10-game leap to 47 victories. That would put them straight into the playoffs as viable second-round threats. 

They are excited that a backcourt tandem of Jalen Brunson and Mitchell, with RJ Barrett, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson in the frontcourt, and Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley as the top two guards off the bench, would make them a top-six Eastern team. 

Giving up all their eligible first-round picks, however, would leave the Knicks in a place that would prevent them — perhaps for years — from making another significant trade in order to take the next step. 

The Knicks were 37-45 during a bitter 2021-22 campaign. Their championship drought will reach 50 years if they don’t win it this June. 

“Getting from 47 wins to 57 wins, that’s harder than 37 to 47,’’ a coaching source said. 

Stockpiling draft picks has been a central strategy during team president Leon Rose’s regime, with chief strategist Brock Aller a top influencer. The Knicks, however, already have traded their 2022 lottery pick to clear cap space to sign Brunson, their much-needed point guard. 

The Knicks also could forfeit an additional first-round pick as the NBA investigates whether to punish them for tampering with Brunson. 

Coach Tom Thibodeau is still keenly interested in making Mitchell a Knick and has recently laid low, knowing the offseason work isn’t complete. 

There is belief around the league Thibodeau would prefer to give up Barrett in a deal than shooting guard Quentin Grimes, who is coming off a solid rookie year, and a summer league in which he looked quicker and more sculpted. Grimes is a better defender and 3-point shooter than Barrett. 

Ainge is hot to acquire Grimes for his Jazz rebuilding plan. One individual believes Grimes would likely be amenable to joining Utah since a Brunson-Mitchell backcourt would a roadblock to ever becoming a Knicks starter. Grimes is a Houston native who played part of his college career at Kansas. 

Thibodeau pushed for Grimes in the 2021 draft and thinks he could make a good fit in a Mitchell-Brunson scenario. 

One recent report from ESPN insider Stephen A. Smith said the Jazz have interest in Barrett and have pared their demands to six first-round picks. Smith reported the Knicks may be amenable to giving up four first-rounders. 

Other clubs, such as the Heat, reportedly are involved in talks for Mitchell. 

Some in the Knicks organization aren’t fully convinced Barrett is worthy of a maximum rookie contract extension of four years, $185 million despite his scoring-average jump in 2021-2022 to 20.8 points. He shot just 40.6 percent. 

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Barrett was eligible for the rookie extension on July 1, but the Knicks have to see how the Mitchell sweepstakes plays out. Ainge likely would prefer to negotiate Barrett’s contract. 

Mitchell wants to be a Knick, and that’s huge to the team’s brass. Mitchell has made himself visible in New York this offseason, starting with attendance at Rangers playoff games and showing up at Rucker Park as recently as Thursday. The Westchester County native always spends offseasons in New York, but made just one public appearance last summer — at a Naomi Osaka tennis event in Queens last August. 

The negative side in passing on Mitchell would be figuring out a solid alternative plan to get from 37 to 47 wins. Brunson might not be enough. 

“Mitchell makes all the sense in the world,’’ one Western Conference scout said. “This may be obvious, but to win in the NBA, you really need to have at least two major perimeter players. If you have Brunson, who is almost major, and Mitch, you’re on the right path. And if you keep Barrett as a No. 3 — though he’s maybe a 4 — all the better. But the best scenario is if they can get rid of Randle in the process.’’ 

Trading Randle is unlikely to happen in a straight-up deal with Utah and would need a three-team scenario. Another talent evaluator said having three ball-dominant lefties — Randle, Barrett and Brunson — alongside Mitchell would make for a clumsy mix. 

Thibodeau has not spoken to the press, incredibly, since the April 10 season finale, but according to a source, the Knicks coach is ecstatic about Brunson’s arrival. He thinks he can turn Brunson from “a B-minus player to a B-plus player.’’ The key is teaching him to become a sharper defender despite being undersized. 

On the contrary, the Mavericks viewed Brunson, a second-round pick, as having hit his ceiling. Owner Mark Cuban, thereforre, was uninterested in matching the Knicks’ four-year, $104 million offer. 

Whether Brunson and Mitchell become a tandem may not be known until September. Ainge is willing to wait until the start of training camp since he has no designs on winning this season. 

Ainge has been unable to initiate a meaningful bidding war with other teams. Hence, Rose and Ainge are embroiled in a game of high-stakes “Spida” poker.