Knicks’ interest in Cavs superstar trade target dwindling due to Jalen Brunson’s emergence

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) controls the ball against New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) during the first quarter at Madison Square Garden
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers G Donovan Mitchell have been linked to each other for nearly two full years. Prior to being traded to Cleveland in 2022, the Knicks were right there in the mix for the All-Star guard.

Jalen Brunson has become a premier talent with the Knicks

May 8, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) celebrates in the fourth quarter  after scoring against the Indiana Pacers during game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

However, due to Jalen Brunson’s emergence as a premier talent in the NBA, the general sense around the NBA is that the Knicks won’t be as quick to jump on Mitchell should he become available once again.

According to The Athletic’s Fred Katz, the Knicks “wouldn’t be as enthusiastic” as they were two years ago if Mitchell becomes available for trade by the Cavaliers.

Jalen Brunson is coming off the best season of his career in which he averaged a career-high 28.7 points per game, making his first All-Star as well as his first All-NBA team while finishing top five in MVP voting. Brunson was dominant in the postseason for the Knicks, scoring 40 or more points in four consecutive games and averaging 32.4 points per game in 13 playoff games.

Brunson has solved the Knicks’ past woes at the guard position

Brunson’s rise to stardom has lessened the Knicks need for another ball-dominant guard. Mitchell’s future with the Cavaliers will depend on if he and the team can reach a contract extension agreement this offseason. Mitchell is signed through next season and has a $37.1 million player option for the 2025-2026 season.

Mitchell was open to the idea of playing for the Knicks two years ago

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Cleveland Cavaliers
Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Following the trade to the Cavaliers in 2022, Mitchell later shared that he was almost certain he was being traded to the Knicks. Mitchell grew up as a Knicks fan and acknowledged the excitement he felt about playing for his hometown team.

“Who doesn’t want to be home, next to their mom,” said Mitchell. “I haven’t lived at home since I was in the eighth grade and I went to boarding school, so it would have been nice.”

The Knicks are no longer a good fit for Mitchell

Dec 5, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau gestures towards New York Knicks guard Josh Hart (3) on the sideline against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first half at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks are right to no longer feel the need for Mitchell’s services. In 2023, Brunson’s Knicks defeated the Cavaliers in five games in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. This past season, the Knicks won 50 games to earn the second seed in the Eastern Conference and firmly established themselves as title contenders around the league on the shoulders of Jalen Brunson.

The time for the Knicks to acquire Donovan Mitchell has officially passed. Two years ago, Mitchell made sense for a Knicks team that was still searching for its identity, but now, the Knicks are better off without him, largely due to Brunson’s rapid rise to superstardom in his first two seasons with the Knicks.

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