Despite it almost seeming a certainty at one point, the New York Knicks are looking less likely by the day to trade for Donovan Mitchell. Given Utah’s steep asking price for the 25-year-old Louisville alumnus, it seems as if the Knicks have pulled out for now. There are obviously pros and cons to the actions of Leon Rose, yet one should weigh them up before coming to a final judgment on his more pragmatic actions than his predecessors.
Donavan Mitchell Player Profile
Donovan Mitchell is quite easily a top-25 player within the sport. During the 2021-22 season, he averaged 25.9 points per game, the 9th highest in the league. Mitchell is a three-time all-star who has averaged 24 points per game throughout his career. In Mitchell, the Knicks had the ability to acquire one of the most elite scorers in today’s game.
When it comes to playmaking, it is indubitably one of the most underrated aspects of Mitchell’s game. Despite averaging a far from enviable 5.3 assists per game last season, Mitchell has the court vision and passing ability that is necessary to make things happen on the floor. It could be argued that he fell victim to being surrounded by weak scorers on the Jazz. Other than Bojan Bogdanović, there were few strong spot-up shooters on the Jazz to help Mitchell build up his assist totals.
On the defensive side, Mitchell’s prowess has seemed to dwindle over recent years. In his first two seasons, he accumulated 3.8 and 3.7 defensive win shares respectively. However, in the past three seasons, this figure has fallen to 2.2, 2.2, and a higher figure of 2.5 last season. What one can infer from this, is that Mitchell can be a good defensive player when he puts his mind to it. Furthermore, in a Tom Thibodeau system, Mitchell’s weakness on the defensive side may be less pronounced.
Too Steep A Price?
The Jazz and Knicks kept their trade negotiations fairly secretive. Despite this, it is believed that the Jazz were asking for some of the Knicks’ young players and at least six first-round picks. What one can see from this, is that the selling price of Rudy Gobert has caused inflation within the trade market, particularly for Mitchell. As the Jazz were able to obtain four first-round picks for the defensive anchor, they would expect more for the face of their franchise. As the Knicks have appeared to make Immanuel Quickley untouchable, the three young players who would potentially be involved in a trade to acquire Donovan Mitchell would be Obi Toppin, Quentin Grimes, and Cam Reddish.
Although the Knicks own 9 first-round picks over the next 5 drafts, giving up six represents losing a large chunk of their draft capital. As fans have seen in the past, the Knicks are now able to draft well after years of front office incompetency. The fact that Immanuel Quickley was drafted 25th overall, Mitchell Robinson 36th, and Jericho Sims 59th highlight how the Knicks can get some serious value out of their picks. If the Knicks gave up six of their first-round picks, many ‘what if?’ scenarios could emerge given their ability to draft high-end talent with these later picks.
In the form of Obi Toppin, the Knicks have a sparkplug in their ranks whose motor can lead to easy transition buckets and simply a higher pace of play for the side. In addition, his improvements when it came to his jump shot in the final few months of last season showed he was capable of efficient scoring.
When it comes to Quentin Grimes, he is a player that every team in the NBA wishes they had. Despite perhaps not being able to lead an offense, he is the 3&D player that works so well in today’s game. Grime’s smooth jump shot demonstrates how he will likely be an efficient shooter for the rest of his career. On the other side of the floor, Grimes can play strong defense on any guard in the game, as seen with his hounding of Trae Young.
Cameron Reddish is arguably the most intriguing of the Knicks’ young players. Drafted out of Duke and a college teammate of RJ Barrett‘s, he has struggled with efficiency during his tenure in the NBA thus far. Despite this, his body and quickness highlight how he has the necessary attributes to be a legitimate star in the modern game. With only one year left on his rookie deal, he would likely be the player the Knicks were most willing to part with.
Given the talent level in the NBA is arguably at an all-time high, it is likely that, barring a huge jump in production from RJ Barrett, the Knicks would be placed firmly in basketball purgatory. Too good to tank yet not strong enough to contend would be the position that the Knicks would find themselves in. As a result of the strength of some of the sides in the Eastern Conference such as the Milwaukee Bucks, the Boston Celtics, and the Philadelphia 76ers, the Knicks, even with Donovan Mitchell within their ranks, would be unlikely to make headway within the playoffs.
A ‘big three’ of Donovan Mitchell, RJ Barrett, and Julius Randle is decent but a large increase in production from Barrett and Randle would be imperative if the Knicks truly had ambitions of contention. In this day and age, it is supremely difficult for NBA teams to compete for a championship without a legitimate superstar within their ranks.
The Knicks seems to be of the impression that it is a better idea to provide their young player with more minutes than trade them away for a star player. Given the high ceilings of Quickley, Toppin, and Reddish alongside the very low-risk prospect of Quentin Grimes, it would be unwise for the Knicks to demolish their promising young core in order to become a perpetual 6 seed in the East.
Although some may consider it unambitious, it was certainly the right move for the Knicks to not meet the Jazz’s initial asking price for Mitchell. It would be flippant for the Knicks to mortgage their future to acquire a player who would lead them to at most a conference semifinals exit. With how stacked the East is, Randle and Barrett would need to improve the efficiency to some extent to have a Mitchell-led side be able to contend.