The Knicks and Jazz have reportedly engaged in trade talks for Donovan Mitchell. But does New York have enough to make a deal happen? SI’s Howard Beck and former Suns GM Ryan McDonough discuss.
The following transcript is an excerpt from crossover NBA Podcast. Listen to the full episode on podcast players everywhere or on SI.com.
Beck: Do you suspect we’re gonna see Donovan Mitchell traded sometime in the pretty near future? Are the Knicks the most logical destination? And I don’t mean for Donovan Mitchell, who clearly has New York ties, but are they the most logical destination even as a trade partner for Utah given whatever it is they might want to get back?
McDonough: I think it is likely the Jazz trade Donovan Mitchell at some point this offseason. Obviously we’re in the prediction business and we don’t know for certain. Most of it will depend on the offers that Danny Ainge and his group of him in Utah receive as far as compensation, and is the package good enough? …
You’re talking to a guy who worked for Danny Ainge for a decade, and I know how he operates. There’s nobody better at getting value in trades, especially when he has a talented player to trade like Donovan Mitchell. We saw what he did with Minnesota in the Rudy Gobert deal. And also in Brooklyn with Royce O’Neale.
So I think if the Jazz look at it objectively, say, how are we going to keep Donovan Mitchell happy with the rest of the moves they’ve made, especially given how much success Donovan has had basically since day one when he entered the NBA ? I believe they’ve been in the playoffs every single year. They’ve had a chance to compete for championships. They haven’t broken through, gotten to the Western Conference finals or the NBA Finals, but they certainly had teams that are at least theoretically good enough to do that. They’ve tried to do that. Now, if you’re kind of going the wrong way down the mountain, even if it’s the best thing for the franchise, is Donovan gonna lose his mind about him? How’s he gonna react to that? When the guys he built this with—Rudy Gobert, Royce O’Neale, Joe Ingles—are gone. I don’t think Donovan probably cares as much about the future pick value or how Walker Kessler will develop. Like most NBA veterans in their prime, he wants to win now.
So that’s the challenge. But one complicating factor, we’re getting to a part in the offseason and free agency where it does become more difficult to make trades. Obviously Donovan Mitchell is the kind of player that teams will drop everything and put plans on pause, and it looks like the Knicks are doing that. But Week 3 of free agency and especially the later we get in the offseason, it’s important for your listeners to keep in mind that anybody who got signed this offseason as a free agent is not eligible to be traded until Dec. 15 at the earliest. Some are not eligible to be traded until Jan. 15. So that’s a significant part of the NBA player pool that is just not available in trades. And then you also have the difficult issues financially with teams. They spent their cap space. They made deals that put him in luxury tax.
So that’s a long-winded way of saying, I think Mitchell will be traded. I think he is the player that’s good enough that franchises like the New York Knicks, who have acquired a number of draft assets, will put plans on pause and be super aggressive trying to pursue. And so now the question for me just becomes, when does Utah get an offer good enough to pull the trigger?
Scroll to Continue
I think it’ll be this offseason because I think the market for Donovan Mitchell is more robust than it was for Rudy Gobert. And again, we saw what Danny Ainge and company in Utah were able to get for Gobert. A tremendous haul of players, picks, swaps. I think the price for Mitchell is even higher.
Beck: Could be, and look the Knicks to their credit have amassed a bunch of picks and those will be attractive. If Danny Ainge wants to challenge Sam Presti’s record for largest cache of future first-round picks, he might just challenge him if he can extract enough from the Knicks on that end. But you’re gonna want players, too, I would think. Opinions are varied around the league on RJ Barrett, but RJ Barrett is obviously their best young player and the one player they’re gonna want to keep. Because you know, now a core of Donovan Mitchell, Jalen Brunson, who they just signed, and RJ Barrett is the start of something. I don’t know what that is exactly, but it’s the start of something. And I don’t know what else they have. Everybody else, they’re good. Some collection of Toppin, Quickley, Grimes, McBride… I guess it’s a little bit akin to what they got from the Timberwolves for the Gobert trade in that they have a bunch of good players, but not game-changers, right? rotation guys. And the Knicks’ players are younger with some upside, again, depending on how Danny Ainge feels about the upside of Obi Toppin and or Quentin Grimes or whoever.
I imagine if Donovan Mitchell is up for grabs. It seems to me that there should be—there may not be—there should be something more attractive out there than a boatload of picks and some of those players, whose futures I think aren’t that clear. Like they’re good players, but I don’t know how many of the guys I just named are actually going to be 10-year starters in the league.
McDonough: I agree with that. And I think if I’m in the Jazz front office, it’s pretty simple. If RJ Barrett’s not in the deal, then we don’t have a deal. I don’t think the rest of that stuff is good enough. I mean, you’re talking about an All-Star in his prime by him and Donovan Mitchell, who plays a position and a style that is attractive to every team in the league. And I say that not to cast aspersions on Rudy Gobert, but Rudy’s more of a polarizing player. … Certain teams love him and value him. Clearly the Timberwolves do. Other teams didn’t value him quite as highly. I think most teams, if not almost all of them, value Donovan Mitchell very highly.
So then the question becomes, from an executive standpoint, is if we’re trading a young star in his prime, who’s under contract? And by the way, even though it’s a max contract; those numbers are gonna look pretty good as the salary cap continues to ascend. We need to get somebody who, theoretically, at least, could be as good as him someday. And so if you look at just my opinion, look at the Knicks’ roster, RJ Barrett’s that guy. The other guys are, you know, I mean, are they starters? I’m not trying to bag on the Knicks. But Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes, McBride, Toppin, you can make an argument that maybe they’re low-end starters or high-end bench players; maybe they’re rotational players. But we’re talking about one of the 20 best players in the league under contract for a number of years.
And then so the reason I bring it up is because the other calculation, obviously, as an executive, is OK, we’ll get all these picks; picks are nice, but if we let the Knicks retain the core of a team in the Eastern Conference that has a chance to be in the top four or five in the East every year—well, then we got a bunch of OK prospects and picks that are likely to be in the 20s. That’s not good enough for Donovan Mitchell.
Listen to crossover nba podcast
More NBA Coverage: