The New York Knicks seemed to temporarily close the door on a Donovan Mitchell trade by signing RJ Barrett to a lucrative contract extension. However, the mentality held by the front office could prove to be a greater barrier in preventing a trade.
New York drew a hard line in negotiations with the Utah Jazz this weekend. According to Tony Jones of The Athletic, the belief around the NBA was that the Knicks and Jazz made progress on a deal over the weekend. While they reached a point of being at a “serious” stage, things broke down and New York then extended Barrett.
Signing Barrett to an extension certainly complicated matters. Utah’s asking price is through the roof, with reports pointing to Ainge’s interest in Quentin Grimes and a significant number of unprotected first-round picks. Importantly, neither side believes the conversations are done for good.
Both clubs remain natural trade partners. Utah wants to enrich its collection of draft assets and young talent, launching a rebuild the right way. Meanwhile, the Knicks are desperate for a marketable star and bringing Mitchell back to New York would solidify this team as a playoff contender.
However, per Tony Jones, New York is “very hesitant” to either include Grimes or a ‘significant number’ of unprotected picks in a trade package. Ainge’s asking price is built off the unprecedented Rudy Gobert trade, which few around the league believe should have a significant influence on the return for Mitchell.
A key motivation for the Knicks front office is protecting Grimes, who everyone in the organization remains high on after he dominated the NBA Summer League. The 22-year-old guard would have a key role in the rotation this upcoming season and the goal remains to use him as a complementary piece on the roster around Mitchell. However, there’s another factor in play that ties directly into the future.
New York Knicks eyeing a second blockbuster trade
Several NBA stars became available for trade this summer, including Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. While both are now committed to the Brooklyn Nets, New York views it as the latest instance of a superstar always becoming available.
It seems to be a driving force in the front office’s approach. Trading away numerous assets this year for Mitchell would put a drain on a package of young talent and picks that New York would offer the next time a perennial All-Star player or future Hall of Famer asks for a trade.
“They certainly want Mitchell, but the Knicks also want to preserve their future. It’s a big reason they have not wanted to place Grimes in the framework of a deal. They want Mitchell, plus the future flexibility to acquire another significant player down the road.”Tony Jones on the New York Knicks’ perspective in trade negotiations for Donovan Mitchell
Realistically, New York will be right. While Zion Williamson signed an extension with the New Orleans Pelicans, history suggests a franchise-caliber player will demand a trade. The Knicks rightfully want to be in a position to land whoever that is.
There is also a tremendous risk with that approach. If the Knicks don’t acquire Mitchell and fall short of expectations in the 2022-’23 season, the damaged reputation that hung over this team for years could return. Injuries and regression are also looming threats with one down year or a season-ending injury serving as a proverbial torpedo to the potential trade value for one of the Knicks’ young players.
It’s possible everything works out in New York’s favor. Utah could lower its asking price and agree to send Mitchell to the Knicks. A year later, the front office can land the next superstar who demands a trade and it then makes them one of the best teams in the NBA. If things go wrong, though, the approach could prove costly.