The Knicks need to make quick moves on the Donovan Mitchell trade, but they need to keep RJ Barrett out of the deal

After the New York Knicks landed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the summer of 2019 (which now seems like a blessing), they did well not to commit big long-term money to anyone. The most they gave was a three-year, $63 million deal to Julius Randle, who ended up signing a four-year, $117 million extension after his All-NBA season last summer.

Additionally, these were shorter, modest deals for guys like Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, Alec Burks, Bobby Portis, Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington, and Nerlens Noel, providing the flexibility to sign when and if the opportunity to make it big arose. signing and/or trading. Well, there it is. Donovan Mitchell is on the market. The Knicks almost have to move on from this one.

Why? Because at this point, it would be hard for another team to beat the package he needs to send back to Utah, but with other disgruntled stars becoming available in the coming years, that won’t be the case. Houston and OKC are loaded with capital. Once the charts for their young rosters line up and they feel like they’re ready for a winning star, they’ll both have pure gold to splash around with. Here are the eight – yes eight — draft picks the Knicks could offer Utah.

  • Four of them (2023, 2025, 2027, 2029)
  • Dallas 2023 (slightly protected)
  • Washington 2023 (Protected 1-14 in 2023, Protected 1-12 in 2024, Protected 1-10 in 2025, Protected 1-8 in 2026)
  • Detroit 2023 (Protected 1-18 through 2024, Protected 1-13 in 2025, Protected 1-11 in 2026, Protected 1-9 in 2027)
  • Milwaukee 2025 (slightly protected)

Yes, if the Knicks don’t move on Mitchell, they’ll still have those picks in the Hall. But again, those defenses are pretty heavy on Washington and Detroit picks. A pretty decent chance they never give away in the lottery. Milwaukee’s pick will be late unless Giannis decides to leave town and everyone else follows suit. And by adding Jalen Brunson and extending Mitchell Robinson, New York has signaled it has no intention of being a tanking team, so its picks, if the plan pans out, won’t be lottery picks either.

It’s still a big draft package, but it doesn’t hold a candle to what OKC and Houston, who will both be bad teams for at least a few more years with the high lottery picks they can show for it (plus all the capital I acquired at their superstar send-offs) can offer.

If the Knicks don’t target Mitchell now, they will very likely be left out in the cold trying to build a contender around Brunson and RJ Barrett. Speaking of Barrett, the Knicks should stick to keeping him out of a deal with Utah. Mitchell, paired with Brunson, is a bottom-tier playoff team in the East.

Maybe if everything comes together, meaning Randle returns to All-NBA form and Robinson solidifies as a top player and defender, the Knicks can give up and grab a pick-six. But this is not a ceiling to aim for. The real upside lies in Barrett’s continued All-Star trajectory.

Doubts abound as to whether Barrett can be a 1A or even a 1B foundational star. But with Mitchell at the top of the food chain and Brunson as the second potential All-Star, Barrett positions himself as a true needle-moving third wheel. If he goes to Utah along with most or all of New York’s future draft capital — plus Immanuel Quickley and/or Obi Taupin — in a Mitchell deal, the Knicks’ train will run out of gas a few stops before contention with no means to fill it.

Utah must agree to leave Barrett out of the deal. You don’t trade Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell in the same offseason and still look like a good team. You’re looking for a tank. You’re looking to acquire project capital from other teams while building your own. Barrett would be a good player on a trying-to-be-bad team that would also be in line for a big extension next summer, when the Jazz would potentially be forced to pay him early or lose him for nothing.

Danny Ainge doesn’t do half measures. When he gets into plan, he’s all-in. Can you really see him trading Gobert but sticking with Mitchell just to be a playmaking team for a few years until Mitchell inevitably calls out on his own? He will strike if the offer is right, and New York must make the offer.

For the foreseeable future, it’s now or never for the Knicks. They wisely held off on long-term commitments and opened up their cap sheet and stockpiled draft picks to be ready to strike when the opportunity presented itself. If not now, then when?

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