For pretty much the entire offseason leading up to the 2022-23 NBA season, the New York Knicks were linked to then-Utah Jazz star guard Donovan Mitchell.
A native of the New York Metropolitan area, there is little doubt that Mitchell would have loved to land with his home team.
“Who doesn’t want to be home, next to their mom? I haven’t lived at home since I was in the eighth grade and I went to boarding school, so it would have been nice,” Donovan Mitchell said last September.
That did not come to fruition.
Instead, the All-Star was dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a blockbuster that included three first-round picks, two pick swaps, Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton and Ochai Agbaji heading to Utah. The Knicks were not willing to meet that asking price.
We now have a detailed explanation from former New York general manager Scott Perry, explaining why New York did not pull off the potential franchise-altering trade.
“Obviously we made a push to trade for him,” Perry said (h/t the NY Post). “But it was going to be done within reason. He was a good player but he needed more around him to win. Because if he was that singular force, Utah probably would’ve been in the conference finals if he were that singular force. But he wasn’t that singular force. That’s not a criticism against him. That’s just an evaluation that you must make.”
Perry is indicting that the Knicks’ brass didn’t believe Mitchell is that superstar player who can change the dynamics of the NBA Playoffs by himself.
To be fair. We kinda saw this play out during the 2023 NBA Playoffs when New York defeated Mitchell and the Cavaliers four game to one in the first-round.
But there are very few players who can be that singular force. In today’s NBA that, a subjective opinion could limit the list to LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo. We might even include Jimmy Butler given that he led a talent-stricken Miami Heat team to the NBA Finals last season.
Were the New York Knicks wrong not to trade for Donovan Mitchell?
Mitchell, 27, averaged 28.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG and 4.4 RPG en route to leading Cleveland to 51 wins in his first season with the Cavaliers. It was their best performance since the aforementioned James enjoyed his second stint with the Cavs.
But it did not equate to postseason success. As with pretty much every star outside of the select few mentioned above, it’s all about the supporting cast. Mitchell did not necessarily have that against the Knicks in the first round of last season’s playoffs. There is no telling what supporting cast would have been left in New York if the team had traded for him ahead of last season.
We know that the Knicks are starved for star power. Jalen Brunson provided that to an extent in his first season with the organization. But he’s not the type of player or attraction to lead this team back to championship relevance. That’s why the Knicks have reportedly kept a keen eye on the Joel Embiid situation with the Philadelphia 76ers.
As of right now, it’s way too early to say whether the Knicks made a mistake by not trading for Donovan Mitchell. We may never fully have an answer to that question. What we do know is that this season’s iteration of the Knicks likely isn’t much more than a mid-tier playoff team back east.