Will Knicks cash in draft capital for Donovan Mitchell?

Knicks, Donovan Mitchell
Apr 18, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) drives past Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) during the second quarter in game two of the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

After hoarding draft assets in recent years, the New York Knicks‘ chance to cash in for an elusive star has come.

Utah Jazz’s All-Star guard and Westchester native Donovan Mitchell could be theirs for the taking. The big “if” is if they are willing to put together a godfather offer.

According to an ESPN report, the Jazz have changed course Tuesday, showing a willingness to listen to offers for the 25-year-old Mitchell, who is entering his prime, after previously shutting down teams. Over the weekend, a Salt Lake Tribune report said the Miami Heat made an “insignificant” offer for Mitchell.

While the Jazz are not close to trading Mitchell, the Knicks are “expected to quickly try and put together a package for Mitchell,” according to a report from The Athletic.

Any Mitchell trade is expected to fetch a bigger haul than what the Jazz got for their All-Star center Rudy Gobert. Utah netted essentially five first-round picks — No. 22 pick Walker Kessler, three unprotected in 2023, 2025 and 2027, a top-four protected selection in 2029, and a pick swap in 2026 — and a slew of young players and veterans to match salaries.

Knicks president Leon Rose, Mitchell’s former agent, has championed their deep draft capital over the next seven years — 11 first-round picks and nine second-round picks — after making a series of trades that cleared the necessary cap room for Jalen Brunson.

But a potential explosive backcourt pairing of Mitchell and Brunson, who went mano-a-mano in the Western Conference Playoffs’ opening round, does not inspire confidence on defense. Having two 6-foot-1 guards in your backcourt is not ideal in today’s NBA, which is gradually moving to heavy switching on defense to counter small ball.

But beggars cannot be choosers. The Knicks have long coveted a star to anchor their team.

New York coach Tom Thibodeau will not veto any Mitchell trade for sure, even if it means having both undersized guards in his backcourt. He has espoused that getting stars to win in the league is paramount.

“You have to be very aggressive in seeking out those opportunities. They just don’t happen by accident. You have to make them happen,” Thibodeau told reporters on December 15, 2020.

Will the Knicks be aggressive in bringing Mitchell home?

If the Jazz pivot to a full-scale rebuild, the Knicks have lost veterans on team-friendly contracts in their pursuit of Brunson. But they have the draft capital than any team, except for Oklahoma City Thunder and maybe, Houston Rockets.

On top of an expected multiple first-round picks, will the Jazz be amenable to a combination of the veterans — Derrick Rose, Evan Fournier and Julius Randle — left on the Knicks roster and a slew of intriguing young pieces — RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes — to match Mitchell’s salary?

Mitchell has four years left on the rookie max extension he signed in 2020, escalating from $30.4 million next season to a $37.1 million player option in 2025.

The Knicks could be up against Brooklyn Nets, who are trying to grant Kevin Durant’s trade request. One of the trade scenarios being floated around is Mitchell could end up in Brooklyn, with Durant, along with Indiana’s Myles Turner, heading to his preferred destination — Phoenix Suns — and Ben Simmons landing in Utah in a mega-blockbuster four-team trade.

It will be a dagger to the Knicks if Mitchell lands in New York but across their borough.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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