The Knicks’ apparent reluctance to go all-in on a Donovan Mitchell trade was tied to their desire to bring someone else into the fold in addition to Mitchell.
After weeks of being linked to the three-time All-Star, New York missed out on Mitchell, who the Utah Jazz traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday. The Jazz got a huge return for Mitchell, getting back Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji, three first-round picks and two pick swaps.
RJ Barrett all but certainly was going to go to the Jazz in any Mitchell deal. But the Knicks reportedly balked at including Quentin Grimes in any trade package that also included Barrett, and the Jazz wanted three unprotected firsts if the Knicks replaced Grimes with Immanuel Quickley. The Knicks shied away from that too.
The Knicks really could have used a player like Mitchell, so why would they not just part with the draft picks? ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski offered some insight on “The Woj Pod”.
“I think for the Knicks, the entire time their thought was they wanted to keep enough assets that they could go get another player in a trade,” Wojnarowski said. "Whether it’s at the end of next season or in 18 months, they wanted to keep enough picks and enough assets to be able to do that.
“But you can’t get that third player until you get the second one. And if we want to say Jalen Brunson is the first one in, Jalen Brunson is a very good NBA point guard, Donovan Mitchell is a guy you put on the marquee at the Garden. He’s an All-Star, and sometimes you need to have that All-Star to get the next one to want to come. And New York will bank on the fact that RJ Barrett can be that guy.”
Wojnarowski also reported Thursday that the Jazz never circled back with the Knicks to give them a chance to beat Cleveland’s offer. Perhaps things would have gone differently if the Knicks were given a chance to match.
If they really are intent on bringing in two stars over the next few years, then it does make sense that they didn’t want to part with a monster package. Losing Barrett and at least one other promising young player would have hurt the Knicks' depth, leaving them with few assets and a roster with tons of holes.
That said, this ultimately just continues the trend of the Knicks zeroing in on a star but being unable to close the deal.
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