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Donovan Mitchell trade to the New York Knicks could be looming

Vincent Frank

When it was reported earlier in the week that the Utah Jazz had not shut down Donovan Mitchell trade talks with other teams, there was some sense of surprise around the NBA.

Led by front office head Danny Ainge, the Jazz were seemingly intent on building around Mitchell following the trade of fellow star Rudy Gobert. That no longer appears to be the case with Utah set to head into full-scale rebuild mode under first-year head coach Will Hardy.

Among the teams previously bandied about in Mitchell talks, the New York Knicks have reportedly emerged as frontrunners to land the three-time All-Star.

“The Jazz are having conversations with multiple teams on a Mitchell deal, but the Knicks have emerged as the focused destination over the past several days, sources said. Both sides have discussed a deal framework in the past 24 hours.”

The athletic’s Shams Charania on Donovan Mitchell trade talks

There’s certainly a few interesting notes presented in Charania’s report. First off, the NBA insider notes that 2021 first-round pick Quentin Grimes is believed to be of interest to Utah.

He also reports that Utah is seemingly valuing draft pick compensation and players under rookie deals rather than proven talent in a potential Mitchell trade.

That seemingly eliminates the Miami Heat in two-team trade talks with Utah given that they have only two first-round picks to offer up. Meanwhile, Tyler Herro is set to sign an extension and would have to be the centerpiece heading to the Jazz. This report is also an indication that RJ Barrett wouldn’t be included in a hypothetical Mitchell blockbuster to the Big Apple.

“After the blockbuster Rudy Gobert trade to Minnesota that saw four-rounders sent to Utah, the Jazz have up to 11 first-round draft picks through 2029 and appear primed to acquire even more in a Mitchell deal to jump-start a full rebuild in a new era under CEO Danny Ainge and head coach Will Hardy. It appears that draft compensation is a goal in a potential deal.”

Charania reported

Related: Donovan Mitchell and the NBA’s top-50 players of 2022

How a Donovan Mitchell trade to the New York Knicks would look like

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

If Utah is focused on draft compensation, New York would make the most sense. Under NBA rules, it could actually offer up as many as eight first-round picks in a potential package.

Remember, front office head Leon Rose added multiple future first-round selections in separate trades during the 2022 NBA Draft. New York also still boasts the Dallas Mavericks’ 2023 first rounder from the Kristaps Porzingis trade from eons ago. That would come in handy here.

Utah received four future first-round picks (three unprotected) from the Timberwolves in the aforesaid Gobert blockbuster. It also added five players to the mix, including rookie first-round pick Walker Kessler and potentially valuable trade chips in Patrick Beverley and Malik Beasley.

Any move for Mitchell would likely cost an aquiring team even more. His elite-level play since Utah made him a first-round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft adds another layer to this.

Related: 5 ideal Donovan Mitchell trade scenarios

Mitchell, 25, is averaging 23.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists on 45% shooting in his first five NBA seasons. He’s also coming off three consecutive All-Star appearances. Given that any team acquiring Mitchell would have him under contract through at least the 2024-25 season, Utah’s asking price is going to be exceptional.

Donovan Mitchell contract: 5 years, $163 million w/ player option for 2025-26 season

It’s safe to assume any deal would require five first-round picks and a couple pick swaps heading to Utah.

From there, the Jazz would have interest in the aforementioned Grimes as well as fellow former first-round picks Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley. Veteran Evan Fournier would also have to be involved to make the financials work.

Fresh off the big-time signing of Jalen Brunson, it seems that New York is intent on building a contender back east after a disappointing 2021-22 season.

As for Utah, the resignation of Quin Snyder coupled with Gobert’s departure has seemingly expedited the team’s plans for a rebuild.

“You’re over the tax, no draft picks, and our team loses in the first round. It wasn’t fun for us. We want it to be fun for our fans and our players, but we just haven’t had much flexibility to do anything over the last little while.”

Utah Jazz CEO Danny Ainge following Rudy Gobert trade

Flush with up to 11 first-round picks through 2029, Utah already has that flexibility. Add in what it could acquire for Mitchell, and Ainge would have free rein to build the Jazz in his model. A Donovan Mitchell trade would be that next step.