The New York Knicks were clowned for missing on Donovan Mitchell, a three-time All-Star guard and a Westchester native who would have made them a legit playoff contender. But one of the team’s top executives shed light on why the Knicks eventually relented in bringing Mitchell home.
William Wesley, the Knicks executive vice president and senior advisor, told NBA legend and TNT analyst Charles Barkley they did not want to get fleeced.
“I had this conversation [Thursday night] with World Wide Wes (Wesley) at a dinner. I said, ‘Wes, why did you not make the [Mitchell] trade?’ He said, ‘Oh man, don’t go by the media stuff. They wanted my wife, my kids… He said ‘I don’t wanna give them [everything]. We wanted the deal, obviously.’
But he said, ‘they wanted my wife, they wanted my kids, they wanted my grandkids. They were just trying to rip somebody off.’ So he said… ‘Dude, we’re going to have to pass on it.’ And I give those guys credit because you can’t give away everything for a guy. I like Donovan, he’s a very good player. It was the first time in a long time the Knicks actually [showed restraint].”Charles Barkley via SiriusXM NBA Radio
Show restraint the Knicks did in almost two months of on and off negotiations with the Jazz — a refreshing scenery in New York. The Knicks of old would have jumped at the opportunity of landing an All-Star, even at the expense of the team’s future.
But the Knicks did not fall into the trap with Leon Rose at the helm. Rose saw first-hand how the Carmelo Anthony trade crippled the team’s ability to surround his former superstar client with a championship-caliber supporting cast.
A Mitchell deal would have made them a playoff contender in the immediate future but with no clear path to title contention.
So after almost two months in the driver’s seat, the Knicks, who were inches away from the finish line, pushed the break. That’s when the Cleveland Cavaliers sneaked from behind to land Mitchell.
The Cavaliers sealed a blockbuster deal barely 48 hours after the Knicks-Utah Jazz talks momentarily stalled for the nth time when RJ Barrett signed a rookie extension that complicated his participation in the trade.
Utah’s CEO Danny Ainge got what he wished for, receiving three unprotected first-round picks (2025, 2027 and 2029), which the Knicks reportedly refused to give up in a deal involving Barrett, two pick swaps in 2026 and 2028, former lottery picks Collin Sexton and Lauri Markkanen, and this year’s 14th overall pick Ochai Agbaji.
New York’s refusal to send a third unprotected first-round pick reportedly scuttled a framework that Utah was amenable to accepting. The Knicks’ reported final offer was Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, two unprotected first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, Milwaukee’s 2025 top-4 protected pick, two future second-round picks, two pick swaps (2025 and 2027) and Evan Fournier (going to a third team using one of extra Knicks’ protected first-round picks from other teams).
The addition of the Knicks’ 2027 unprotected first-round pick instead of Milwaukee’s pick could have sealed the deal, but they wanted top-5 protection which killed the deal.
Had the Knicks agreed to the Jazz’s demands, they would have been left with their 2029 first-round pick and four first-round picks with varying protections from Dallas (2023-2025 top-10 protected), Washington (2023 top-14 protected), Milwaukee (2024 top-4 protected) and Denver (2023-2025 top-14 protected).
It wouldn’t be enough to trade for a second star to pair with Mitchell. And the Knicks would have almost $100 million of their cap space tied to the quartet of Mitchell, Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson in the 2023-24 season.
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