Jazz GM explains why Knicks lost to Cavs in Donovan Mitchell trade

The Knicks lost out on Donovan Mitchell, and the Jazz loom to become a rival in their next star hunt.

Donovan Mitchell, Knicks
Mar 20, 2022; New York, New York, USA; Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) goes up for a dunk in the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

It was not out of spite but simply getting the best return for their former franchise player.

That was the explanation of Utah Jazz general manager Justin Zanik why they chose to send three-time All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers instead of the New York Knicks, who were the frontrunners until the eleventh hour.

“Theirs was the best offer. I think for them, it was an opportunity to add to their team to open up a window with Donovan and their young group. I think they’re going to be very good,” Zanik said, referring to the Cavaliers, in a press conference Monday with Jazz CEO Danny Ainge.

“And you know, to get a good return, you’ve got to give up something good as well. They certainly gave up a lot.”

Cleveland gave up what New York refused to give — a third unprotected pick, along with former lottery picks.

The Jazz simply took the best available offer on the table as the training camp looms on the horizon. They received three unprotected picks (2025, 2027 and 2029), two pick swaps in 2026 and 2028, along with Collin Sexton, who agreed to a $72 million, four-year extension, Lauri Markkanen, who is entering the second year of a $67 million, four-year extension, and Ochai Agbaji, the 14th pick of this year’s draft.

With Mitchell, the Cavaliers have jumped over the Knicks in the Eastern Conference power rankings. The Westchester native is expected to elevate the 44-win Cavaliers’ young core to a perennial playoff contender in the East.

“It’s meaningful for [Cavaliers]. And it was a meaningful, meaningful trade that we liked as well,” Zanik added.

After trading away their franchise cornerstones Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, the Jazz now have the most unprotected picks through the 2029 NBA Draft under their control.

But Sexton projects to be the crown jewel of their haul while waiting for the return of those unprotected picks.

“It wasn’t much of a question that [Sexton] is somebody that we wanted to the point that to make a deal, he needed to be in the deal,” Zanik explained.

The Jazz essentially chose Sexton over Barrett, who got a far richer contract extension that could reach up to $120 million.

The Knicks’ decision to keep their picks and young players over having Mitchell still keeps them a hot candidate to trade for the next disgruntled star. But in two years’ time, if the Jazz’s rebuild goes according to plan, they will be armed with a better draft capital, along with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets.

The hunt for the coveted star gets more complicated from here for the Knicks. Things have to go right for the Knicks, especially with the development of their young players, to become a viable destination for stars.

Follow this writer: @alderalmo

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