NBA Insiders: New York Knicks ‘Whiffed on a Softball’ in Donovan Mitchell Trade Talks | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors

Donovan Mitchell (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via G) etty Images

The Knicks had a chance to find a young, marketable All-Star in Donovan Mitchell who especially wanted to go to New York, but the team ignored draft considerations.

“They blow on softball,” an NBA source said. “The Knicks thought they were making an offer on themselves. [Cleveland] The Cavaliers disagree. “

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cavaliers and Utah Jazz agreed on Thursday to a trade that includes five first-round picks (three unprotected, Two exchanges), Ochai Agbagi (14th overall in the June draft), Collin Sexton (via sign-and-trade) and Lauri Markkanen. That’s a huge gain for the rebuilt Jazz, which the Knicks will have to pay dearly to beat.

“Who do they leave the draft picks to?” asked a player’s agent. “[The Knicks] Really impatient to build through drafts. Will they get someone better than Donovan? “

Not only do the Knicks have all seven first-rounders of their own, but the team has four additional draft picks from the Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Wizards. With 8 picks and 3 potential trades, New York can’t overtake the Cavaliers?

That’s not to say New York should give everything to Utah, but the Knicks should find a compromise with the Jazz that goes beyond Cleveland’s generous offer.

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Maybe team president Leon Rose really believes no one else is running. For context, the Knicks used to be willing to trade draft considerations for minimal playoff success. When Phil Jackson took over, the team changed tactics and maintained that philosophy through multiple front office changes. Holding on to picks has brought quality players and prospects like RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes and more.

But after the Knicks’ hard-earned 2020-21 playoff appearance, the team didn’t make the playoffs. One of the top NBA teams (by popularity), this team suffers from a lack of star power. If it weren’t for Mitchell, would the Knicks be counting on the nearly 34-year-old Kevin Durant to revisit his trade needs? Will the Brooklyn Nets consider sending him to their city rivals for a lucrative draft pick and prospect?

Mitchell, 25, has a birdie. The Knicks are not without interest. Wojnarowski detailed the negotiations and their various hurdles for players like Barrett, Quickley, and draft considerations.

“Utah wants three unprotected first-round picks as part of a package,” Wojnarowski wrote. “New York will only do a third first-round pick that includes top-five protections.”

Is this the line the Knicks drew in the sand?

“New York plans to keep going after Mitchell,” Wojnarowski continued. “But the Jazz turned to discussions in Cleveland and never negotiated with New York again…Mitchell has always been keen to play for the Knicks.”

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Agent relationships can affect a player’s movement, but Mitchell is a cautionary tale. He is represented by CAA, as are recent signings Jalen Brunson and Isaiah Hartenstein and returning players Julius Randle and Toppin. Before joining the Knicks, Rose was a basic basketball agent for CAA.

Fair or not, the rest of the league refers to this team as the “CAA Knicks.”

These connections can lead to overconfidence. Or maybe it’s not that complicated. Maybe the Knicks really feel the price is too high.

The All-Star Game comes at market prices, and just like our world, inflation is a reality. Going back to the Anthony Davis trade, from the New Orleans Pelicans to the Los Angeles Lakers to the recent Rudy Gobert blockbuster with the Minnesota Timberwolves/Jazz, prices for the league’s best talent have been skyrocketing.

The Knicks are one of the few non-rebuild teams with a large draft pick. Arguably New York shouldn’t build an argument around the 6-foot-1 backcourt duo of Mitchell and Brunson. But if the Knicks think so, why bother negotiating with the Jazz?

If there’s good news for struggling Knicks fans, it’s that the team remains powdered. The team still has ways to make transformative deals. The challenge will be to find this opportunity. Top players don’t come around very often in the NBA. When that time comes, and if it comes, New York better not overplay their hand.


Email Eric Pincus at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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