As reports continue to surface about a possible trade between the Utah Jazz and New York Knicks involving Donovan Mitchell and multiple draft picks, I’ve tried to put my most objective hat on and think about what this could all look like in the aftermath for both teams.
Life without Mitchell for the Jazz
It’s my personal opinion that trading Mitchell is the best thing for the Jazz if they want to move toward being a winning team. We had enough evidence to see that the Jazz weren’t going to win a title led by Mitchell and Rudy Gobert and winning with Mitchell as a centerpiece in the current Western Conference just doesn’t feel tenable.
If the Jazz were to move forward with Mitchell they would have an absolutely impossible task of trying to build a team around him that would come close to being able to contend. The defense is completely depleted without Gobert and Royce O’Neale, they still have the problem of having a too small back court with Mitchell and Mike Conley and there would need to be deals upon deals upon deals made to flip some assets and current players to make the Jazz a team that could even compete for a playoff spot, much less anything else.
So why pour assets into trying to be another middling team?
Life after Donovan Mitchell is going to look very different for the Utah Jazz. The Jazz would likely have a fire sale with the rest of the teams’ veteran players (Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson, Rudy Gay and recently acquired Patrick Beverley) and go into complete rebuild mode, stockpilling all the picks brought over in the Gobert trade and whatever else they can get for Mitchell.
The Knicks, who have a treasure chest full of future picks to offer in a deal, are probably going to have to give up at least a handful of them in order to land Mitchell, especially after the Gobert trade dictated the worth of a star player in today’s market. A deal would also probably include some number of younger high-ceiling players that are already semi-established.
All of this points to at least a couple of seasons of hardcore player development and investment in a team that will prioritize mental toughness and skills training over wins. It’s not the most glamorous stage for an NBA team to be in, but if the Jazz play their cards and their picks correctly, they could be on track to have some of the most coveted young prospects in the coming years, making for an exciting fresh-faced approach.
It’s fairly easy to see the path forward for the Jazz.
Life with Mitchell for the Knicks
It’s not as simple for me to see the path forward for the Knicks.
I understand getting someone like Mitchell, who is considered somewhat of a homegrown product for New York, being able to step in as a three-time All-Star who might not have even reached his highest potential yet, and making him the face of the franchise. But if we are talking about winning and hopefully contending for a title, I’m still uncertain about New York’s plan.
If they give up some of their young core and a mountain of future assets, what will they have to build around Mitchell with?
And didn’t we just see that Mitchell and Conley had a hard time in the postseason as a small backcourt? If the Knicks have Mitchell paired with Jalen Brunson, it’s hard for me to imagine that kind of a team being able to contend with some of the rangier and lengthy teams.
The Eastern Conference is getting better and teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors and possibly the Brooklyn Nets are all going to have a lot of weapons to throw at an undersized team.
Depending on the package the Knicks would send the Jazz, New York would end up with something close to Mitchell, R.J. Barrett, Julius Randle, Jalen Brunson, Mitchell Robinson and Evan Fournier as a main rotation and not nearly enough future assets to make any big waves after getting Mitchell.
Recent reports suggest that the Knicks have been hesitant to include as many future assets as the Jazz are asking for in a deal, and that makes sense to me. I don’t think that the Knicks have what it would take to be a contending team if they give up more than five of their future draft picks.
Maybe it is worth it to get another team involved to make this make sense for everyone.