Report: Knicks amenable to include Obi Toppin in Donovan Mitchell trade

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Aside from the picks package, there is one more sticking point in the trade talks between the New York Knicks and the Utah Jazz in a potential Donovan Mitchell blockbuster trade.

Quentin Grimes’ explosion in the NBA Summer League had only reinforced Danny Ainge and Jazz’s belief in the incoming second-year wing. Grimes has been Jazz’s top target on top of the Knicks’ unprotected picks.

According to Jazz beat reporter Tony Jones of The Athletic, “the Jazz are very hesitant to do a [Donovan Mitchell] deal that doesn’t have Quentin Grimes in it.”

The Knicks, however, have kept Grimes off the table and instead dangled multiple first-round picks but as Jone noted, “most of them were protected rather than unprotected.

“The one player [the Knicks] are trying not to put in the deal is Quentin Grimes. They don’t want Quentin Grimes in the deal under any circumstances,” Jones said on ESPN 700. “I can tell you that the Knicks are amenable to give the Jazz Obi Toppin, who’s really young, high energy, high ceiling power forward.”

Toppin averaged 27.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in the final five games of last season, punctuating it with a 42-point, 10-rebound performance. But he did it without Julius Randle, whose four-year, $117 million extension kicks in next season.

If traded, Toppin can flourish and lead the Jazz’s rebuilding process. But it appears the Jazz aren’t budging.

Meanwhile, Grimes has made himself indispensable because of his defense and shooting. While his overall rookie numbers (6.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 38.1 percent three-point shooting on 4.1 attempts per game) were pedestrian, he was solid in six games as a starter (13.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 43.8 percent on eight attempts per game).

But more than the tangible stats, he has solidified himself as the Knicks’ best perimeter defender after they lost Reggie Bullock.

Grimes, a projected lottery pick out of high school, has regained his footing after a lackluster freshman year at Kansas. He revisited the game that made him a highly-touted prospect in the NBA Summer League, leading the Knicks to the Finals.

Grimes was named to the All-NBA Summer League First Team after averaging a team-high 22.6 points and 3.4 3s per game on 41.4 percent overall shooting. He added 4.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists against 3.2 turnovers and 1.2 steals. The 6-5 combo guard also yielded the highest net rating among the Knicks Summer League players with plus-10, meaning his team has outscored their opponents by 10 when he is on the floor.

Leon Rose has eight first-round picks — four unprotected (2023, 2025, 2027, 2029) and four protected (from Dallas, Washington, Detroit and Milwaukee) at his disposal. But he’s unwilling to meet Danny Ainge’s very high asking price.

The Jazz reportedly want at least five first-round picks and young players, with Grimes on top of their wish list. They have drawn that line on the sand after fleecing the Minnesota Timberwolves with five first-rounders, including 2022 No. 22 pick Walker Kessler and a pick swap for Rudy Gobert. Three of those picks were unprotected while the fourth one is top-five protected.

They are hoping it will take more than that to give Mitchell, a three-time All-Star entering his prime years and locked for four more years, away.

The Knicks and the Jazz are not close to making a deal. But when push comes to shove, will Grimes be the deal breaker?

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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