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Are the Knicks Better Off Without Donovan Mitchell?

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Okay, so maybe Leon Rose could put together the best trading package for Donovan Mitchell. In the end, however, he did not.

Knicks president reportedly set a deadline on Monday night for the Jazz to finally agree to a deal that would send Mitchell, a three-time All-Star, to New York. reports differ about what would be header back to Utah: some combination of R.J. Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes, two unprotected first-round picks, future top-five first (maybe through the Bucks), a few second-round picks, and possibly unlimited number of trips. Subway map. When that deadline came and went, Rose stepped back from the negotiating table, signed Barrett to a four-year, nine-figure contract extension, and sat back, confident that Jazz CEO Danny Ainge would not find a more acceptable deal in the coming weeks. before training camp.

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But Rose’s retreat opened the door for Cleveland – recently considered excluded from the Mitchell Lottery– take a step back, propose and make Mitchell a cavalier. What was this offer? three undefended first round picks in 2025, 2027 and 2029as well as the right to trade first-round picks with Cleveland in 2026 and 2028together with signed and sold Colleen Sexton, 4th and 3rd Lauri Markkanen and future rookie Ochai Agbaji, who was selected 14th by the Cavs in June.

Three unprotected peaks plus everything else. That’s the price the Cavs paid to bring Mitchell on board — if not more than what the Utah got from Minnesota for Rudy Gobert, then close to it — and ultimately, the Knicks decided the price was too rich for them. blood.

According to several reportsRose will ultimately not offer more than two undefended championships in a deal. featuring Barrett. He may have refused to include Grimes’ second-year shooting guard. in any package. He insisted on defending the top five at the third pick as part of a larger proposal that This was reported by ESPN correspondent Adrian Wojnarowski. would tie up a third team to absorb two years and $36.9 million. remaining under the contract of Evan Fournier. He took a hard line, betting that the market was soft enough for Mitchell that he could make a deal without giving up his best stuff. Ainge and Jazz CEO Justin Zanik bet they could get their preferred package of picks elsewhere.

Utah’s game paid off; This did not happen in New York. As a result, the Knicks started September still holding all their chips but left in search of a new game. Whether you consider this a major disaster or a mild discomfort probably depends on how high you rate Mitchell as a soon-to-be 26-year-old hitting engine who could bet on being one of the top 10 hitters. players on the planet, but which also brings defensive and playmaking lapses that any potential opponent will have to, well, contend with.

If you consider Mitchell a productive force that for the first time in nine yearsgiving New York the firepower to constantly compete in the postseason and then squandering it with one pathetic draft pick seems like a big mistake—wise penny-yet-silly thinking that overvalues ​​theoretical future prospects at the expense of tangible ones. talent in the present.

If you think of Mitchell as a short defensive player and sometimes a mechanical playmaker whose weaknesses make him a Second Tier All-Star – closer to the 25th best player in the NBA than the top 10 – then the decision not to lose control of your The next five drafts are not laziness or negligence for him. This is a manifestation of restraint and discipline. He’s sticking to the plan that Rose laid out since taking over the reins at Madison Square Garden in March 2020, and which he’s been referring to since the nightly draft that gave New York the funds to sign Jalen Brunson from the Mavericks.

“Our focus will continue to be on the strategic and thoughtful construction of our team,” Rose. wrote in a statement after draft. “Doing it the right way, building on the momentum gained at the end of last season and prioritizing our player development program.”

Reasonable minds may disagree as to how much stock New York should invest in 12-11 entry and East’s sixth best net ranking after the All-Star break. Nevertheless, at least there is a direct connection between Rose’s messages and his actions in negotiations with Mitchell: if you are not a single piece behind, and even the next move does not remove you by a single piece, then do not do it. Stay low and build. You know, like the Cavs.

Cleveland already has a core that includes all-stars under 25 in the form of Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen, as well as 21-year-old prodigy Evan Mobley. It is comparatively easier for the Kawam to look at the state of affairs in the East – by the way, at the conference they two games off an All-Star halftime lead to a series of injuries – and consider themselves one big addition to victory. You’d have to squint hard to see what’s left in New York after the blockbuster deal – the starting five of Mitchell, Brunson, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and any other winger left on the list – and see a similar contender. And if, as many assumed, the point of Mitchell’s appearance at the doors of MSG was to convince next star (whoever she is) to join him, will the Knicks be draft-burdened for the next half century, with $100 million allocated to the Mitchell, Randle, Brunson and Robinson foursome in 2023-2024, and no young players that Utah would have mistaken for Mitchell, is there still enough in the closet to make such a deal?

Maybe yes. Maybe like Tony Jones of Athletic wrote on ThursdayThe Knicks could make a deal without sacrificing Grimes or 2020 lottery pick Obi Toppin while still controlling one of their future first-round picks, plus four others that they have accumulated in previous transactions. Maybe that would be enough to get them into the next round of talking about the star. Maybe that, plus the fact that the core led by Mitchell is still in place, would be enough to get the Knicks to 50 wins for just the second time. this is the millennium.

On the other hand, if these players and protected picks weren’t enough to get the Knicks Mitchell, then what star is worth billing? would are they clean? How likely is it that they will catch the player better than Mitchell – supposedly the meaning of the thought experiment “the first star brings the second”? Will the resulting roster have a real chance of fighting for the championship – or in a few years, the Knicks will run into the same “good, but not great” second-round ceiling as the Mitchell Jazz? t break through? Considering how hopeless things have been in New York City for two decades, would the mere possibility of scraping that ceiling be reason enough to pull the trigger?

Rose and his lieutenants apparently didn’t think the answers to those questions were convincing enough to complete the deal that Jazz might have made. And now, after all the shenanigans, rumors, and insinuations, the Knicks are back to where they were in early July: stockpiling draft picks, preaching patience and player development, trying to figure out how good they can be. and how they can get better with what they already have on hand. (By the way, questions that can have different answers depending on whether you’re asking New York executives or its head coach.)

Although the Knicks finished 37-45 last season, after deducting the minutes given to Kembe Walker in an ill-fated experiment during the first month of the season, they were actually three points ahead of the opposition in 100 possessions without trash. to Glass cleaning, with a defensive rating that would have been fourth all season. The net rating plus 3 is better than what the Knicks had during 2020-21 seasonwhen they won 41 games in a surprise lead over the East. 4 seeds. Maybe with all of this in mind, it’s only reasonable for Knicks management to want to see if a healthy version of the roster with Brunson providing playmaking push is enough to help resurrect Randle and buff Barrett to build a team capable of contending for a top-sixth spot.

Problem: this horrible tough question in today’s East. With the exception of injuries, top six last seasononly Chicago seems like a worthy fall bet. (That sound you just heard was DeMar DeRozan offering brandishing an impossible midrange dagger as an objection.) Brooklyn, who came in seventh, didn’t trade Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving, after all, and could actually put Ben Simmons on the floor. Eighth-seeded Atlanta and ninth-seeded Cleveland had just been traded for All-Star defensemen.

The Knicks with Mitchell might not have made it to the top six in the East; However, with the current Knicks roster, it can be difficult to break even into the top 10 to qualify for the play-in tournament. And the prospect of changing this constitution brings us back to the question of the coach and the front office.

Rose’s reluctance to part ways with the Knicks’ youth and his stated focus on internal development suggest he sees bigger roles for the likes of Barrett, Grimes, Toppin and Quickley in the near future. Tom Thibodeau’s widely publicized preference for veterans is the poverty that led to Randle. played more minutes than any other NBA player in the last two seasonswhile Toppin only exceeded the 24-minute game 14 times during this timesuggests that he is, at best, reluctant to provide these opportunities when he has options with longer resumes. If the “wait and see if adding Brunson is enough” approach doesn’t bear fruit…


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