Securing a seatbelt for a long ride is probably the best posture during these Donovan Mitchell trade negotiations. Things can change in an instant, or with one offer, but reports suggest the Jazz and Knicks aren’t close.
Danny Ainge, the top decision-maker for the Jazz, is a patient man. We could see it dragging. But the Knicks have the assets to pull it off, if they desire to empty the chest, and below we’ll explore three ways such a trade could go down:
THE DRAFT PACKAGE
Given Utah’s preferences, this is probably the most likely path to a deal. The Knicks own 11 first-rounders over the next seven years, with eight eligible for trading.
Four of the picks, acquired in trades, are protected and not as valuable as the Knicks own picks. Leon Rose can also include pick swaps to sweeten the deal.
For context, the Jazz acquired five first-round picks for Rudy Gobert from the Timberwolves, including three unprotected future first-round picks and one that is only top-5 protected. They also negotiated a pick swap.
That massive haul wasn’t good for the Knicks’ negotiations. Mitchell should return more than Gobert, considering he’s younger with a more desirable contract.
According to Jazz beat reporter Tony Jones, the Jazz want “at least six” first-round picks from the Knicks with multiple prospects for Mitchell. That includes Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes.
A colossal bundle.
THE RJ BARRETT PACKAGE
Barrett remains the Knicks best prospect and trade piece at just 22 years old. Theoretically, his inclusion in any deal would offset some assets departing in the aforementioned draft package. But Barrett also has a contract extension looming, which maxes out at over $180 million and begs the question: Should the Jazz even want Barrett on a nine-figure deal?
As the Daily News reported, the negotiations on Barrett’s extension will take some time, despite other 2019 draft choices (Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and Darius Garland) finishing their deals soon after free agency opened. It’s easy to read that as the Knicks either not being eager to offer Barrett the full max or to hold off because he’s a possible trade chip.
There are different views on Barrett’s value. The naysayers point to his inefficiency and lack of athleticism. The supporters point to his strength, poise and willingness to defend. We think he’ll be an All-Star and may find out soon which side the Jazz fall on.
THE COMPLICATED MULTI-TEAM
The Suns matching Deandre Ayton’s offer took some fun out of this exercise, but we do have a unique situation where Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are both available, along with Indiana’s Myles Turner.
With so much in flux, there may be ways to facilitate widespread happiness.
In other words, one team may find more value in Barrett, Evan Fournier or Julius Randle than the Jazz. That can translate to assets outgoing to a third team for Mitchell. Or, the Durant sweepstakes opens an avenue to pick up a wing defender that fits better with a Jalen Brunson-Mitchell backcourt.
We propose this doozy, and leave it up to the NBA carpologists to provide the fillers to match salaries:
Knicks get: Donovan Mitchell
Pacers get: RJ Barrett
Jazz get: Russell Westbrook (expiring contract), two first-round picks from Lakers, first-round pick from Nets, two first-round picks from Pacers, two first-round picks from Knicks.
Nets get: Myles Turner, Evan Fournier
Lakers get: Kyrie Irving