Donovan Mitchell trade: Knicks whiff on another star, but RJ Barrett and future flexibility was worth more

Donovan Mitchell appeared to be abruptly traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday, and the low-key fallout from the New York Knicks will spark a chase for another superstar. This is not an unreasonable takeaway. The Knicks eventually had to actually catch one of these big fish they’ve been chasing.

But the wrong deal can be just as important to a franchise as the right one. Of all the stars the Knicks have pursued to varying degrees lately, are we sure Mitchell is the right fit?

First, are we sure Donovan Mitchell is a superstar? he’s good. when attacking. He’s proven himself to be a great playoff player, and that’s important. But Mitchell-Jalen Brunson’s backcourt sounds very small and defensively fragile. If the Knicks give up their alleged offer of RJ Barrett in a deal to acquire Mitchell, plus a slew of future draft picks, they’ll be largely out of the running for another All-Star. Player chase.

How good is the Mitchell-Brunson combination, especially without Barrett’s size and defensive support? You’d better hope Julius Randle is back as an All-Star, and even then you’re probably looking for a low-end playoff team in a fully stacked Eastern Conference.

Utah’s trade from Cleveland — Collin Sextion, Lauri Markannen, 2022 No. 14 pick Ochai Agbaji, three unprotected first-round picks and the right to exchange two future picks — according to New York The deal on offer is the better deal. New York is believed to have offered Barrett, but Danny Ainge, the certified thief in those talks, wants more unprotected picks. To me, New York is wise not to give them up.

Chances are, the Knicks really have to out-draft the solid players Utah acquired from Cleveland. Again, Mitchell is really good. But how good? Let’s say the Knicks send five picks, three or four unprotected, and get Mitchell. While this won’t empty New York’s basket (it has eight trade-eligible future picks), it will only leave three future picks — of debatable value — available to go into future trade talks, And Oklahoma City and Houston are likely years away from being ready to wipe out everyone else’s offers.

Again, I’m not suggesting that the Knicks will be explicitly misled into going all-in on Mitchell. New York reportedly thinks the Brunson-Mitchell duo will attract another star. It’s debatable, as is whether the Knicks have the resources to add a third star, even if it’s already a target.

Ultimately, if the Knicks can keep Barrett, I’d support adding more unprotected picks to get Mitchell. I think Barrett can develop into an All-Star, and if Brunson becomes an All-Star, your Big Three will come. If he doesn’t, you can pack him with the remaining draft picks to pair with Mitchell and Barrett as a senior replacement. Or you could trade Barrett. This will be enough wiggle room to still feel comfortable.

but give up on Barrett and A pile of unprotected pickaxes is a bridge too far.Mitchell is not That great. Knicks fans will or should see them in a pretty decent position to go forward when the disappointment of snubbing another star fades. Brunson may be an overpayer, we’ll see, but he’s a very good player who takes the ball away from Randle’s monopoly. Barrett now has time to continue his development, and most importantly, these eight future trade-eligible picks are still in the holster.

By 2025, when new TV deals kick in, there could be a huge cap spike, and it could be a couple of years before New York has anything close to the max space. At that point, Brunson will have a player option. If he’s worth it, you extend him. Otherwise, he will be a trader. That’s called flexibility, and to me, it’s better than draining your asset pool and overextending yourself to make Mitchell the No. 6 seed.

I’ll reiterate this one last time: Reasonable people may disagree with this position I’ve taken. The Knicks have to get a real star at some point, and Mitchell is one. In my opinion, he’s not a superstar, but he’s a legitimate star. It’s understandable if you think the Knicks should give up more unprotected picks and/or Barrett before thinking about the rest, especially with Houston and the Thunder being monsters of trade ace a few years down the line. This isn’t where I fell, but it’s not a clear-cut situation. Either way, it’s a tough decision. Only time will tell if the Knicks made the right choice.

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