But Mitchell thought he was going to be traded to the Knicks. Just like everyone around the league expected.
“Once Rudy [Gobert] got traded, I kind of saw the writing on the wall. You know, I think we all did,” Mitchell said at his introductory press conference in Cleveland. “I think we understood we had a good run. I kind of had a feeling I was gonna get moved.
“Like I said, I thought it was New York, I’m not gonna lie to you. You know, obviously, who doesn’t want to be home next to mom? I haven’t lived at home since I was like an eighth grader, been at boarding school, and that would have been nice. For me, I once I found out I got traded [to Cleveland] and what we’re going into, like that trumped everything for me. Like I said, I’m truly excited to be here to be part of this group to be a part of the city.”
The Knicks were always considered the frontrunner for Mitchell in a trade — they had the most picks to offer (unprotected and otherwise), good young players, and the Knicks wanted to bring Mitchell back to where he was born. He wanted to be there. It was a match.
But in negotiations, New York tried hard not to bid against itself (as Minnesota was perceived to do in the Rudy Gobert trade), and the Knicks wanted to keep some of their assets in reserve to make the next big trade (they would not have contended with Mitchell alone). The Jazz were trying to squeeze everything out of New York. The sides couldn’t find a middle ground. Once New York took RJ Barrett off the table by signing him to an extension, the Mitchell trade fell apart — even if the Knicks didn’t realize it and thought the Jazz would return to the table. Instead, the Cavaliers stepped in with a clear offer and the deal was done.
Did New York make a mistake letting a star who wanted to be the face of the Knicks slip through their hands, or were they wise to wait? It depends on what happens when the next star becomes available (Leon Rose‘s job could depend on that, too).
Landing Mitchell was a smart play by the Cavaliers, who now have a solid core four that will keep them in the playoffs and a threat for years. How good they can ultimately be is up for debate, but they should be a playoff team starting this season and for years to come. Cleveland made a smart roll of the dice.
Cleveland may not have been Mitchell’s preferred destination, but he is happy to be there.