Donovan Mitchell Trade Fatigue 

It feels like the Donovan Mitchell trade negotiations will never end. I can’t remember trade talks for a player ever lasting this long. Even the fans most excited about the possibility of acquiring Donovan Mitchell are over it. At least the news that RJ Barrett won’t be included in the possible trade because of the poison pill in the rookie extension he just signed is a relief for most Knick fans.

Even with Barrett is off the table, the question everyone has been asking hasn’t been answered yet. What should the Knicks offer for Donovan Mitchell?

To know the answer to that question, you first have to understand how much better can Donovan Mitchell make the Knicks.

There are levels to stardom

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When Ian Begley reported that the Knicks’ front office thinks that Donovan Mitchell could help them make a 10 win improvement over last season’s record, taking them from 37 wins to 47. What they were saying in code is that Donovan Mitchell is not a superstar. Thus not warranting making an ‘all-in’ trade. The Knicks need to be able to make additional moves after acquiring Mitchell if they want to compete for a championship. This not a slight on Mitchell, just the truth. There are only a handful of players that meet the superstar criteria listed below.

Superstar Requirements – Donovan Mitchell

  1. Great Scorer – Yes
  2. Creates Offense for Others – Not at elite level 
  3. Great Size for Position – No, only 6’1″
  4. Is a Two-Way Player – Not a good defender

There is no denying that Spida is a great player, but he doesn’t meet the requirements to be considered a superstar. He is one of the best scorers in the game, and a good playmaker, 5.3 assists per game. But doesn’t do all other things required at a high enough level. He doesn’t elevate his teammates’ performance, doesn’t create lineup mismatches because of size, and isn’t a great defender. That is why when you look at the VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) stat, Mitchell ranked 18th last season, one spot below former Jazz teammate Rudy Gobert. Mitchell’s value would increase exponentially if he could be a fulltime point guard. Don’t you think Utah would have done that if he could?

Paying Market Price

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Just because Danny Ainge was able to fleece Minnesota in the Gobert trade doesn’t mean he gets to set the market. The price to acquire a star is based on the demand for the player at the time he is on the market. Danny Ainge messed up by waiting so deep into the offseason to make Mitchell available. Most teams have executed their offseason plan and don’t have the flexibility to make more trades. It’s what happened with the Kevin Durant trade demand.

That now takes us to Donovan Mitchell’s fit with the Knicks. After all this isn’t fantasy basketball or NBA2K; chemistry, supporting cast, and role matter.

The Fit with the Knicks

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Jalen Brunson

When the Jalen Brunson signing was announced, I thought the possibility of Donovan Mitchell coming home was over. I couldn’t imagine the Knicks having a starting backcourt with two 6’1″ guards. Coach Thibodeau complained last season that he couldn’t have 3 small guards in the rotation, so that is why he had to bench Kemba Walker.

Then there is the question of playing style. Part of the reason Jalen Brunson signed with the Knicks was because he wanted to be the primary ballhandler. He didn’t like playing with a ball-dominant star like Luka Doncic. Mitchell like Doncic is at his best when he is creating off the dribble. While Mitchell’s usage rate isn’t as high as Doncic (37.4%), tops in the NBA, Spida’s was the 5th highest at 33%.

Aside from being undersized, neither Brunson or Mitchell are considered good defenders. That makes it hard for the Knicks to play the style of defense Thibs likes. It could be similar to what we saw last season when Kemba and Fournier played together. Many say that Mitchell can be a good defender if he wants to, they point to his 6’10” wing span and weight, 215lbs. But when you trade for someone, you’re trading for they’ve been, not what they could be. No one will be surprised if Mitchell’s defense doesn’t improve. Also it’s a recipe for getting Thibs fired.

The Offer…

So when you consider the factors we just discussed, it is clear that the Knicks need to maintain enough assets to surround Spida with a good supporting cast and also be able to bring in another star. We know what Danny Ainge really wants is picks and tradable assets. We also know that the Knicks really like their young players. So after much consideration, I would make the Jazz the following offer:

The Trade Package

Utah Jazz get:

  • Veterans: Evan Fournier ($18.0M), Derrick Rose ($14.5M)
  • Young Players: Rokas Jokubaitis, Deuce McBride
  • Draft Picks:5 First Round Picks & 1 Second Round Pick
    • 2023 – Detroit & Washington (both protected), Knicks (unprotected)
    • 2024 – Knicks (top 5 protected), 2nd Rd Pick via Utah or Cleveland
    • 2025 – Milwaukee (protected)

New York Knicks get: Donovan ($30.3M) Mitchell and Rudy Gay ($6.1M)

This trade gives Utah 2 young promising players, 2 tradable veterans, a ton of draft picks,  and they also get to unload Rudy Gay’s contract. While they will only get 1 unprotected pick, the value of protected picks will increase over time which works for Utah since they have all their picks and 4 from Minnesota + a pick swap.

Evan Fournier and Derrick Rose are players that many contending teams would like add to their rotation. So they can be flipped during the season for young players or more draft picks. Deuce is a nice player the Knicks would hate to part with, but the reality is that with Jalen Brunson joining the team there will be limited opportunities for him. As for Rokas, no one is talking about the 34th pick of the 2021 draft because he is playing overseas. But his stock has only increased since the Knicks have drafted him. His value now is the equivalent of a player drafted in the 1st round. He was named one of the rising stars in Europe for his play at Barcelona and has performed well in the this summer’s FIBA EuroBasket tournament which includes NBA stars like Luka, Jokic, and Giannis to name a few.

The x-factor to getting the deal done might be Julius Randle. The Knicks need to move him, especially if they acquire Mitchell. It has been whispers that Phoenix might be interested in Randle, if that is the case they might be willing to make it a 3-team trade and send one of their 1st round picks to Utah, since they are one of the teams that values veterans over draft picks.

Pressure is now on Ainge

The script has been flipped on Ainge now that Cleveland has bowed out of the Mitchell trade talks. Ainge wants to trade Mitchell before the start of training camp. If Mitchell is still on the Jazz when the season starts then his value could decrease. What no one ever mentions about Mitchell is that he was always played with good teammates. When he was drafted 13th, he joined a Jazz team that won 51 games the season before. He did replace Gordon Hayward, but Rudy Gobert was entering his 4th season, they also had Ricky Rubio, and Joe Ingles to name a few. The last couple of seasons he played with Mike Conley, Royce O’Neal, two of the best 6th men in the NBA: Jordan Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic to go along with one of the best defenders in the NBA: Rudy Gobert. Mitchell might not look so good if he is surrounded with lesser players and a rookie head coach, Will Hardy.

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