Donovan Mitchell trade: Knicks get buzz for another star, but RJ Barrett and future flexibility were worth more – CBS Sports

Donovan Mitchell trade: Knicks get buzz for another star, but RJ Barrett and future flexibility were worth more - CBS Sports

Donovan Mitchell was traded, seemingly out of the blue, to the Cleveland Cavaliers Thursday, and the low-hanging fallout story for the New York Knicks about to hit on yet another superstar pursuit. It’s not an unreasonable takeaway. The Knicks finally have to really hook one of these big fish they always troll.

But the wrong deal can affect a franchise just as significantly as the right one. Of all the stars the Knicks have, to varying degrees, been chasing lately, are we sure Mitchell would be the right one to land?

First, are we sure Donovan Mitchell is a superstar? He is very good. In offense. He has proven himself as a big-time finalist, and that should be very important. But a Mitchell-Jalen Brunson backcourt sounds awfully small and defensively vulnerable. If the Knicks were to give up RJ Barrett in a deal to acquire Mitchell, plus either Quentin Grimes or a third protected future first-round pick, which is reportedly what Utah wanted, it would largely hinder their ability to chase another All-Star. down the line

So if a Knicks roster that includes Mitchell is closer to a finished product, how good is a Mitchell-Brunson pairing, especially without Barrett’s size and defensive support? In that scenario, you’d better hope Julius Randle turns back into an All-Star, and even then you’re probably looking at an underdog playoff team, at best, in a completely stacked Eastern Conference.

The deal Utah got from Cleveland – Collin Sextion, Lauri Markannen, 2022 #14 overall pick Broken Blackthree unprotected first-round picks and the right to two future pick trades — is a better deal New York was willing to offer that, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowskiwas as follows:

When a guard Immanuel Quickley was offered as a replacement for Grimes in the trade, Utah wanted three unprotected first-round draft picks as part of the package — but New York would only make a third first-round pick that included top-five protections, sources said. Those packages would include two second-round picks, two pick trades and two expiring contracts from a third team, sources said. New York would have moved Evan Fournier and a first-round pick to a third team to spare Utah by accepting Fournier’s remaining $37 million, sources said.

Danny Ainge is a certified thief in these negotiations, and New York was, to me, smart not to budge. Again, Mitchell is really good. But how well? While the price of his acquisition wouldn’t empty New York’s basket (it has eight trade-eligible future picks), it would leave only three future picks — of debatable value — with which to enter future trade negotiations, and Oklahoma City and Houston are likely a few years away from being ready to dust off everyone else’s bids.

But let’s be clear, I’m not saying the Knicks would be definitely misguided to go all-in on Mitchell. New York reportedly believed that a Brunson-Mitchell duo would attract another star. That’s debatable, as is whether the Knicks would have the resources to add that third star even if one emerged as a target.

Ultimately, if the Knicks could keep Barrett, I would be supportive of adding more unprotected picks to get Mitchell. I think Barrett can develop into an All-Star, and there’s your Big 3 if Brunson turns out to be an All-Star player. If he doesn’t, you can package him with the leftover picks for a high-end replacement to pair with Mitchell and Barrett. Or you can trade Barrett. This would be enough wiggle room to still feel comfortable.

But give up Barrett and a bunch of unprotected picks was a bridge too far. Mitchell is not that great When the disappointment of flirting with another star subsides, Knicks fans will see, or should, that they are in a pretty good position going forward. Brunson may be overpaid, we’ll see, but he’s a very good player and he takes the ball out of Randle’s monopoly hands. Barrett now has time to continue developing, and most importantly, those eight future trade-eligible draft picks are still in the holster.

Throw in a potential massive cap hit in 2025, when the new TV deal kicks in, and New York could also be a few years away from having anything close to cap space. At that point, Brunson will have a player option. If he’s worth it, you extend him. If not, he becomes a trade piece. That’s called flexibility, which in my opinion is better than draining your assets and overextending yourself for Mitchell just to be a #6 seed.

I will repeat this for the last time: Reasonable minds can disagree with this stance I have taken. The Knicks have to get a true star at some point, and Mitchell is a star. He’s not a superstar, in my opinion, but he’s a legitimate star. If you think the Knicks should have given up more unprotected picks and/or Barrett and figured the rest out later, especially with Houston and OKC lurking as trade monsters in a few years, that’s understandable. That’s not where I fall, but this is not a clear cut situation. This was a tough call on both sides. Only time will tell if the Knicks made the right choice.

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