Since The Athletic’s report a week ago that the Utah Jazz and New York Knicks had started discussions on a possible Donovan Mitchell trade, there’s been conversation about when a deal could get done and what both teams would gain or give up if a trade materialized.
Plenty of the coverage, particularly in the Utah market, has focused on what kind of impact that would make for the Jazz in what’s shaping up to be a sizable rebuilding effort under CEO Danny Ainge.
On the flip side, though, how would any kind of Mitchell trade impact the Knicks’ plans?
The Ringer’s Dan Devine examined that question, and whether bringing in Mitchell would truly accomplish what the Knicks want to do with their organization.
For the Jazz — where one key part of its foundational player core, Rudy Gobert, is already gone via trade — the Knicks’ cache of draft assets could be enticing to Ainge — the Knicks have eight tradable first-round picks over the next seven years.
New York, meanwhile, is coming off a losing season and is one year removed from a surprising playoff appearance. Earlier this offseason the Knicks added another high-scoring guard, Jalen Brunson.
The 25-year-old Mitchell is a three-time All-Star, and he’s averaged over 25 points and five assists per game the past two seasons.
“In essence, he provides just about everything the Knicks hoped they might get from Kemba Walker last summer, only a hell of a lot more of it with seven fewer years of wear and tear on his body,” Devine wrote.
Mitchell is known for his ability to create his own shots, he’s grown as a facilitator and as Devine points out, he rates highly in several advanced offensive analytics.
“The ability to shoulder a massive offensive load — only (Luka) Doncic, (Trae) Young, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo posted a higher usage rate last season — makes Mitchell one of the most valuable weapons in the game,” Devine wrote.
All that points to why New York would be interested in swapping a significant portion of its draft assets for Mitchell, who has three more years on his contract, with a player option in 2025-26.
It’s Mitchell’s liability on the defensive end of the court, though, that could cast doubt on whether this would be a wise move for the Knicks.
Devine used a pair of defensive numbers from the 2022 postseason to paint the picture of Mitchell’s struggles.
During this year’s playoffs, Mitchell rated 91st in points allowed per chance among 98 players who defended at least 30 drives, according to Second Spectrum. He was also 85th out of 92 players who guarded at least 25 off-ball screens.
“It’s awfully tough to win it all if your best player is a defensive liability,” Devine wrote.
“The needle that the Knicks or any other interested team must thread, then, is bringing in Mitchell while still having a pathway to pair him with someone even better.”