BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
The Knicks seemed to be the favorites to land hometown kid Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz. The Jazz like the Knicks’ assets such as the multitude of first-round picks, Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin according to The Athletic’s Tony Jones, who covers the Jazz for the website.
What should stand out is the Jazz do not want RJ Barrett. They don’t want to add his salary after he is due for an extension to his rookie contract. This should be good news for the Knicks that they can still build around him if they acquire the Utah Jazz star.
This sounds like a deal that can be made right now if the Knicks want to, right?
Well, yes and no. The Knicks can make the trade now if this is what it takes, but if no team is willing to meet the Jazz’s price and Mitchell is so bent on leaving, the Knicks don’t have to bid against themselves in getting the Westchester product.
It’s understandable why the Knicks don’t want to be the only team to give up that many picks to get Mitchell. Draft picks serve as a foundation for the team to build around. Teams build a championship team through player development.
Still, the Knicks have shown they can’t develop players in their franchise history. They haven’t signed a first-round draft pick to a second contract in quite some time. Knicks fans lose patience with young players fast, and they don’t develop, which then-Knicks president of basketball operations Isiah Thomas once mused that the Knicks can’t rebuild in New York. It’s fair to say what’s the point of keeping the picks.
One of the reasons the Knicks are not a very good team is because they failed to develop players time after time. So far, it’s no different under the Leon Rose and Tom Thibodeau era. This is why the Knicks are better off giving up the draft picks to get what they need if it comes down to that.
It does make sense to why the Knicks want to be patient and see if the Jazz would be willing to change their trade offer to the team’s liking. The Knicks know the Jazz and Mitchell are at a crossroads here. The Jazz know they can’t keep a player around that they plan on trading, and they know their star would not be happy playing for a team that is playing for the future than playing for a championship.
Whatever ends up, it has to end up with the Knicks getting Mitchell. If it means giving up many draft picks, so be it. A player like him that is available doesn’t happen often. When the opportunity presents itself, the Knicks must strike.
As of now, the Knicks are not a playoff team. There’s no buzz about them. This isn’t a team that New Yorkers would want to invest their time in like they are with the Mets and Yankees. This team is not making an impact in the basketball scene right now with the way they are constructed. Getting Mitchell would change all that.
The Knicks signed Jalen Brunson for the purpose of finding a playmaker that they can play with. By getting Mitchell, they create a productive backcourt that would make up most of the team’s scoring. By getting him to join Brunson, maybe the Knicks can get another third star by dangling Barrett as trade bait. We call it a super team if that happens.
The Knicks need to justify signing Brunson by getting Mitchell or what was the point of signing him, to begin with. That’s why they have more to lose by not acquiring the three-time All-Star.
We can fantasize about the draft picks forever, but the Knicks haven’t won a championship since 1973, and they haven’t played in a conference final since 2000. For a big-market franchise that serves as a flagship of the NBA, that is pathetic. This is why the Knicks need to make a move that will get people talking not just locally, but nationally.
At the most, Knicks fans should get to watch their team matter. It would be nice to enjoy the dark days of winter by watching an entertaining team that can contend in the Eastern Conference.
We said the Knicks were back last year just because they made the playoffs. That’s a low bar to celebrate. We should do better. It used to be championship or bust around here during the
team’s salad days. We need to get back to it, and that’s why getting Mitchell has to happen.
We can’t get worked up about giving up picks for a player that is starting in his prime. We can’t worry about the future when the opportunity of getting a star is out there. We can’t worry about what these players would do in Utah if they get traded.
If the Knicks can get Mitchell without paying a ransom, that’s a great job by Rose. But if they have to give up a lot for Mitchell, it’s not going to be the death of the franchise.
The Knicks have more to lose than gain if they don’t get Mitchell.
Rose and Thibodeau have yet to elevate this team to greatness. There has to be a sense of urgency by them in their third season with the franchise.
Rose was hired to be a trader broker that would elevate the franchise. He has that opportunity to get it done.
It’s time for him to do his job and finish the job of getting Mitchell home.
This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6
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