The Utah Jazz and New York Knicks are talking Donovan Mitchell trade again.
That doesn’t mean the sides are anywhere near a deal.
The renewed talks were confirmed by Marc Berman of the New York Post, but with a few new drops of information (both sides are playing the leaking game, trying to spin for fans). First, the Knicks recoiled at the initial ask from Utah’s Danny Ainge — and with good reason. From the Knicks perspective, they want to get Mitchell but want the flexibility to make more moves after they get him.
According to multiple industry sources, the Knicks were turned off by Utah team president Danny Ainge’s initial demands, when he asked in July for a package of seven first-round picks and players. Talks died, but recently there has been renewed back-and-forth…
Giving up all their eligible first-round picks, however, would leave the Knicks in a place that would prevent them — perhaps for years — from making another significant trade in order to take the next step…
“Getting from 47 wins to 57 wins, that’s harder than 37 to 47,’’ a coaching source said.
The Knicks were 37-45 last season. The Knicks believe a Mitchell and Jalen Brunson backcourt with most of their core — Julius Randle, Derrick Rose, etc. — would make them a top-six team in the East, according to the report. Maybe that’s true. The Celtics, Bucks, 76ers and Heat are a clear top four — on a different tier than everyone else — but after that the Knicks could be in the mix with Toronto, Atlanta, Cleveland and Chicago for those final two spots to avoid the play-in.
The question is what the trade package for Mitchell looks like. Utah wants a bigger haul than they got for Rudy Gobert — that was four first-round picks plus Walker Kessler, this year’s No. 22 pick, meaning they see it as five first-rounders (a trade that still has league executives shaking their heads at what the Timberwolves gave up). The Knicks technically can trade up to eight first-round picks (some highly protected) but don’t want to go near that high, more like four. Maybe that climbs to five, but it depends on what other players on the Knicks roster are included in the deal.
This leads to the one extra bit of speculation in Berman’s Post story — coach Tom Thibodeau would rather keep Quentin Grimes than R.J. Barrett when this trade is done.
There is belief around the league Thibodeau would prefer to give up Barrett in a deal than shooting guard Quentin Grimes, who is coming off a solid rookie year, and a summer league in which he looked quicker and more sculpted. Grimes is a better defender and 3-point shooter than Barrett.
Grimes is rumored to be a sticking point in the talks — the Jazz want him and the Knicks don’t want to give him up. Barrett, who is extension eligible, does not fit the rebuilding Jazz timeline plus will get relatively expensive in a year when he signs his new deal (if an extension is not reached before the start of this season, Barrett becomes a restricted free agent next summer).
Expect the Knicks and Jazz to work out a deal eventually — New York wants Mitchell and they have more picks to send to Utah than Miami or other potential destinations. This is the trade that makes the most sense, the sides are just arguing over the terms, and with training camps not opening until Sept. 26, there is no rush to get a deal done. Both sides can posture and leak info, but in the end they need each other to make this happen.