In the end, the cost was too high for Leon Rose’s tastes — hard to say considering the Cleveland Cavaliers ended up bartering Donovan Mitchell’s services. Jazz owner Danny Ainge will always get his catch somewhere. It’s just Ohio and not New York.
Final cost: Five picks (three unprotected) and three players. For the Knicks, that means putting the bulk of their hard-earned money into the sea. Now that Mitchell is a special player, an All-Star, you can make a worthwhile argument even at such a high price. For the past two months, I’ve been adamant that the Knicks need to get better, and by adding good players, you get better.
Mitchell could make the Knicks better just by showing up.
But you need to take a step back and ask yourself: If adding Mitchell – how far the Knicks are from their final destination – an elite player, not a top 15 player; a great scorer, But poor defender; and at just 6-foot-1, that means the Knicks will have one of the smallest backcourts in memory — and minus the assets that might help the Knicks find the final piece of the puzzle, once they figure out that piece.
(if they ever identify that piece)
In fact, the trade makes more sense for the Cavaliers, who had one of the best stories in the NBA last year and one of the teams they felt the best about. They’re young and talented, and despite dealing with injuries in the second half of last season, they’ve put together a 44-win season. Mitchell isn’t making the Cavaliers a title contender, but he could put them in the top four in the Eastern Conference (they finished eighth last year).
That thin meeting atmosphere was never a realistic landing spot for the Knicks — even if they’d acquired Mitchell and added him to Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Jaylen Brunson and Mitchell Robinson’s core lineup. That’s going to be an interesting team, a better team, maybe a 44-48 team. But the Knicks still need an alpha dog, just five (or six) fewer draft picks to help make that happen.
Disappointing Thursday. It doesn’t have to be catastrophic.
But now it’s all on Rose. He chose not to bow to Angie’s demands. But now he has to listen to the din of another demanding audience: Knicks fans. And, look, there was little consensus in that constituency that Mitchell had to be brought home at all costs. Many people have done it. But many also thought Ross couldn’t hand over the store to close the deal either.
Ross did not hand over the store.
But he still has all this dust on the shelf. The most annoying thing about Knicks fans is waiting year after year for the current Captain Ahab to get involved in Moby Dick. At some point, Rose will either pull the trigger and seal the deal — or have a superstar sign his name on the dotted line — or he’ll be the savior of the past, eventually vaporized in Penn Square.
Ross knew it all when he took the job. And he also has to know that his last, best offer — which reportedly includes two unprotected first-rounders, a number he’s reluctant to leave — probably won’t get Ainge to move Mitchell to his New York home. .
So Knicks fans can only comfort themselves with faith and hope, which has been almost impossible to have as a Knicks fan for the past two decades. They can only trust that there is something better out there, and that Rose will not only recognize it, but be able to close the deal next time. So far, he has not done so. At some point, he has to.
The Knicks just got better this summer. The Cavaliers are better now. Donovan Mitchell would have been a very interesting story, but Ross wasn’t making it. His job is to get the Knicks small steps up the mountain in the Eastern Conference.
Again, he was back on the clock. Another time, Knicks fans wondered if then-Captain Ahab was capable of getting fish into the damn boat.