The New York Knicks are in a tough spot. They recently gained some future first-round draft capital, but all three picks are lottery-protected next season. In fact, only one of those picks – the first-rounder from the Washington Wizards — can be at best the 11th pick by 2025.
This past June the Knicks held the 11th pick in the NBA draft and decided it was better to get rid of it. Not the worst idea, but after trading that pick, and all of the confusion surrounding the Jalen Duren trade, the Knicks don’t appear to be a better team heading into the 2022-23 season than they were the previous one.
After Julius Randle’s All-NBA 2020-21, his play has been on a decline since the Knicks’ playoff loss to the Atlanta Hawks that season. Derrick Rose played some of his best basketball in years in that series resulting in a modest — by modern NBA standards — three-year $43 million contract extension. Rose hurt his ankle in mid-December, needed surgery, and never returned to the floor. R.J. Barrett averaged 20 points per game for the first time in his NBA career in 2021-22, but all of his shooting percentages dropped.
So now the Knicks are a team that has made the playoffs only twice since 2013, with limited draft capital, and a rabid fanbase that, for the first time in a while, got a whiff of what it’s like to be a winner over a year ago as a fourth-seed in the first round that won one playoff game. The Knicks used their cap space this offseason to bring in Jalen Brunson from the Dallas Mavericks. Brunson was the Mavericks’ second-best player last season, and helped keep their season going while Luka Dončić was injured early in the playoffs, but this 6-foot-1 guard is now expected to take on a lead role for 82 games with the Knicks in the most competitive Eastern Conference in decades.
Rumors have been swirling for a while that the Knicks are interested in the tri-state area raised Donovan Mitchell. The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Tony Jones reported on Tuesday that talks between Utah Jazz and New York Knicks have resumed regarding a trade for Mitchell. The Jazz are very much in rebuild mode after trading three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert and another starter, Royce O’Neal. Mitchell is a three-time NBA All-Star who Knicks fans would fall in love with immediately, and start naming future children after him once he has a 40-point game in his first month.
However, for all of the points that Mitchell scores, 26.4 and 25.9 averages the last two seasons, he’s never shot 50 percent from the field. He’s an undersized guard who is a below-average defender, and the general manager who controls his contract is Danny Ainge.
The former pesky Boston Celtic, Sacramento King, Portland Trail Blazer, and Phoenix Sun as an executive has a habit of wringing teams dry during trades like a rag that needs to quickly clean a table at a restaurant. In the Gobert trade, the new Jazz team president received in return Jarred Vanderbilt, Patrick Beverley, Malik Beasley, three unprotected first-round picks, a pick swap in 2026, a 1-5 protected pick in 2029, Leandro Bolmaro, and the player that the Minnesota Timberwolves selected 22nd in this past NBA Draft.
If the Knicks want Mitchell back in a trade, they need him to first do something to make the situation untenable with the Jazz. With the limited value that the Knicks have to offer, if they push for a Mitchell trade, Ainge will take all of it. That haul he just received from the Timberwolves was for a 7-footer who has scored 20 or more points in a playoff game once in a nine-season career.
Mitchell may not be the most efficient player, but he’s a 25-plus point per game scorer that has shot better than 35 percent from three the past two seasons. Ainge might be looking to trade him to secure the Jazz draft status for the next decade. Even if the Knicks merely give Ainge Barrett, two unprotected firsts, and a 2024 pick swap for Mitchell they’re screwed.
This upcoming season, the Milwaukee Bucks get Khris Middleton back from what wasn’t a serious injury, Lonzo Ball returns for the Chicago Bulls, Colin Sexton comes back for the new and improved Cleveland Cavaliers, and the East also has the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, and the Atlanta Hawks with Dejounte Murray. Good luck taking on all that with Randle, Rose, Brunson, Mitchell Robinson, Immanuel Quickley, and Mitchell. It’s not worth it. If somehow they can wait Ainge out before the polar ice caps melt, that’s about as long as they need to wait before making a deal with him. If they move any faster Ainge will win, and put a printed picture of the Knicks on his mantle like a 20-pound bass after he guts them and smokes them in his backyard.
There aren’t many options for the Knicks to quickly improve, but getting housed in a Danny Ainge trade might mean there will be no “bing bong” videos until 2030.