On a day when the Knicks finalized a contract with Jalen Brunson, long the rumored object of their affection, another player long linked to the Knicks front office, Donovan Mitchell, might have become available.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that rival teams claimed that the Utah Jazz are no long dismissing trade talks involving Mitchell — the 25-year-old, three-time All-Star — after the team, with Danny Ainge now leading the front office, dealt away Rudy Gobert for a package centered around five first-round picks.
"Change is inevitable in the NBA," Jazz general manager Justin Zanik told reporters in Las Vegas last week. "I'm not trying to be cryptic or anything else, but Donovan is on our roster and he's a very, very important part of what we're trying to do. Things evolve in the NBA, so I couldn't sit here and say anybody is [untouchable]. We're trying to build a championship team, but there's no intent [to trade Mitchell], at all.”
If the Jazz are in a rebuild mode after losing in the postseason for a sixth straight season and seeing head coach Quin Snyder walk away, Mitchell is certainly the most valuable chip to accelerate the plan.
While Mitchell is a former client of Knicks president Leon Rose from Rose’s days as an agent and a native of Westchester — and still returns to New York where he has been found recently at Citi Field (his father works for the Mets) and attended Rangers playoff games — he has four years remaining on his contract so can’t dictate his destination if he is to move.
And the Knicks, with Brunson in the fold, would now be in an awkward position to bring him on — pairing a pair of undersized guards in the backcourt. The cost would likely be prohibitive, too, and the only player who might interest Utah is RJ Barrett and that would likely just be a starting point before adding in a package of draft picks and a contract to get close to the $30.4 million that Mitchell is due next season. The Knicks have floated the idea of moving the contracts of Evan Fournier and possibly Julius Randle since the trade deadline, but neither one would bring back Mitchell without significant assets attached.
They likely could make a package that would interest Ainge with 11 first-round picks over the next seven drafts. But there certainly will be teams interested in Mitchell, who averaged 25.9 points and 5.3 assists this past season. Miami has been rumored to have interest in him and he could fit in a deal with the Nets, who are fielding offers for Kevin Durant. Like many of the possible suitors for Durant, a deal for Mitchell has the roadblock of him being on a designated rookie extension — and the Nets can’t trade for one with Ben Simmons already on the roster with a similar contract extension.