During the last offseason, it almost seemed inevitable that star guard Donovan Mitchell would join the New York Knicks, forming a formidable offensive backcourt with Jalen Brunson.
However, he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a multitude of assets, and the Knicks decided to extend RJ Barrett’s contract. Interestingly, the Cavaliers’ season was cut short by the Knicks, losing 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs.
Hypothetically, the Knicks could reignite their pursuit of Mitchell this offseason given their projected aggressive summer strategy. Whether it is the right decision, though, is open for debate.
Should the Knicks Resume Their Pursuit of Mitchell?
Mitchell, a rising superstar, had his most productive season in his inaugural year in Cleveland, averaging a career-high 28.3 points on 48.4/38.6/86.7 splits. His performance propelled the Cavaliers to their best season in the post-LeBron era, securing the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Cavaliers’ strong frontcourt defense, comprised of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, compensated for the defensive deficiencies of Mitchell and Darius Garland in the backcourt. This balance between offensive and defensive skill sets was productive, although their limited wing depth was a hindrance.
In contrast, the Knicks’ downfall was due to their lack of dynamic offense. As one of the less efficient offenses in the league, Mitchell’s presence could immediately address this issue and add true superstar power to New York. Yet, such an acquisition will not come cheap and could disastrously backfire.
A potential trade for Mitchell would likely involve sending either RJ Barrett or Julius Randle to the Cavaliers, with Barrett seeming more probable given the Cavaliers’ need for a strong scoring wing player who can also defend.
Additionally, the trade would cost the Knicks numerous draft picks. The Cavaliers parted with five picks (three first and two second round) to secure Mitchell. The Knicks would likely have to offer a similar, if not higher, number of picks, which would limit their championship prospects.
Given the Knicks’ scarcity of top-tier talent and their abundance of young players, their depth, which was a key element of their identity this season, would be severely compromised in a trade for Mitchell.
While it’s clear that the Knicks’ offense and spacing would greatly improve with Mitchell, their defense would regress. Obtaining a small, purely offensive guard with no defensive skills at such a high cost could be a detrimental move for the organization.
Despite Mitchell being a native New Yorker who would likely relish the chance to play at Madison Square Garden and his undeniable NBA talent, team depth is crucial.
For instance, the Phoenix Suns relinquished well-rounded players Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson to acquire Kevin Durant. Despite Durant and Devin Booker forming a lethal offensive duo, the lack of depth behind them led to a disappointing playoff performance.
Contrastingly, the Denver Nuggets, who have a team of players performing well in their respective roles and providing a balanced offense and defense, are one win away from an NBA title as of now.
Acquiring Mitchell at an exorbitant price would greatly diminish the Knicks’ depth. Moreover, adding him does not guarantee success, given the team’s potential lack of defensive proficiency. It would be an extremely high-risk, high-reward deal with little margin for error.
If the Knicks decide to pass on Mitchell and preserve some depth, they should seek to enhance their wing position. They should look for a player capable of scoring from the perimeter and defending well, ideally at a lower cost.
Whether the Knicks will aggressively pursue Mitchell again remains uncertain. However, they must weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks before making such a decision.
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