With Kevin Durant committed to the Nets—at least for now—all eyes are now on Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, who many anticipate will be traded in the coming months, if not sooner. Though he’s also drawn interest from the Cavs, Hornets and Wizards, the Knicks are thought to be in the driver’s seat to land Mitchell, a perennial All-Star and Utah’s leading scorer each of the last five seasons. The Jazz are reportedly seeking a king’s ransom for Mitchell, rejecting the Knicks’ latest offer of Evan Fournier (14.1 points per game, 38.9 three-point percentage last season), former Naismith Player of the Year Obi Toppin and five first-round picks.
Meeting Danny Ainge’s predictably steep asking price won’t be easy (imagine the haul Utah could get for Mitchell if a lesser talent, Rudy Gobert, commanded five players and four future assets), but the Knicks, it seems, are willing to up their offer, potentially including RJ Barrett in a package for Mitchell. While Barrett had previously been off limits, according to SNY’s Ian Begley, that “stance has shifted,” with New York now “open” to making their star 22-year-old available. Adding Barrett to the deal would certainly get the Knicks closer to the finish line, though Utah would still require one of Toppin, Quentin Grimes and Immanuel Quickley along with “multiple” first-round picks.
As with all trades of blockbuster magnitude, the Knicks will have to weigh whether Mitchell, an elite scorer but an undersized one (6’1”/215) whose defensive intensity has waned of late, is worth dismantling a promising young core and sacrificing years of draft capital. Mitchell’s potential homecoming (he’s a native of nearby Westchester County) is the perfect narrative to sell to New York’s long-suffering fanbase, generating instant buzz and enthusiasm for a team that, throughout its history, has been a near-constant source of disappointment.
But the goal should still be to build a winning product, and it’s debatable whether trading half the roster for a single player, even one of Mitchell’s elite caliber, accomplishes that. Barrett, in particular, has the look of a future star, breaking out for a career-high 20 points per game last season. Ultimately, it will be up to team president Leon Rose to decide how many eggs he wants to put in the Mitchell basket, but trading Barrett, a former third-overall pick with All-Star upside, is obviously a decision that shouldn’t be made in haste.
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