Former NBA Champion Drops Truth Bomb on Knicks Young Cornerstone

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks

Getty RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks in the first quarter at Arena.

The New York Knicks have endured quite a few hardships since the turn of the century, but it appears as though the franchise finds itself well on its way back towards respectability and a lot of this has to do with the current state of their young and promising foundation.

Over the last several years, New York’s front office has made a bevy of key decisions with the main focus being on building up a roster to lead into the future with. Though 27-year-old Julius Randle is widely considered to be the team’s star, it is 22-year-old RJ Barrett who the Knicks view as their cornerstone piece.

Since being drafted third overall back in the 2019 draft, with every passing season the Duke product has only managed to improve his game, and, just this past campaign, he went on to post career-highs in both points and rebounds, boasting averages of 20 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3 assists through 70 games played.

Showcasing a wide array of skills on both ends of the floor and already having broken franchise records along the way during his still incredibly young NBA journey, the shooting guard has clearly established himself as one of the more promising players in the league still under the age of 25.

That said, though the soon-to-be fourth-year pro may have the full backing of both the New York fanbase as well as his organization, not everyone views him in such high regard, and neither he nor Randle is believed to be of that status where they could wind up enticing others to flock to the Big Apple. 

At least, that seems to be what former NBA player Richard Jefferson’s opinion is on the matter.

In an August 11 episode of the “Bad Weather Fans” podcast, the journeyman forward stated that though Barrett still very much has the potential to become an established top-tier talent in the association, at the moment he does not see him as an eye-popping name that stars around the association will look to jump at the opportunity of playing next to him.

Knicks Need Another Star to Attract Players

All offseason long, the Knicks have found themselves heavily linked to Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell as being a realistic trade destination, with the strong belief being that they could outbid any other interested club for his services.

Though there are varying opinions about how much better the 25-year-old would make New York if acquired, Jefferson stated in the podcast that, at the very least, he would make them a far more interesting place to play for stars looking for a change of scenery.

“No one’s going to come to New York to play, [currently] right now, with RJ Barrett,” Jefferson said. “People will go play with Donovan Mitchell. People will be like ‘oh if he’s there, ok. Listen, I’ll go team up with that guy!'”

The reported cost of what it could take to actually convince Utah to part ways with Mitchell is undoubtedly high, as Jazz CEO Danny Ainge is looking for several young prospects and upwards of eight first-round picks in exchange for the All-Star’s services.

However, no matter the price, Jefferson believes that a deal for the guard must be done, and even compared this situation to the Anthony Davis sweepstakes of 2019, insinuating that if the Los Angeles Lakers were willing to part ways with their high-profile assets, New York should be open to the idea of offloading the likes of Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, and Quentin Grimes.

“If you have a chance to get Donovan Mitchell, you get Donovan Mitchell,” Jefferson said.

“Brandon Ingram left [Los Angeles] because Anthony Davis is that dude, right? And look, say what you want about Anthony Davis, Anthony Davis is that dude. He’s a 25 and 12 guy, right? Like, he’s that dude. Hasn’t played great the last couple of years, but when you look back on that trade and you had to give up Josh Hart, Lonzo Ball, you had to give up picks.

“You had to give up Brandon Ingram, a future young All-Star. Like, think about that. You don’t want to give up Brandon Ingram, but if you can get Anthony Davis you better. And Anthony Davis was 26 years old at the time. Like, that’s the move to make!”

Now, at this stage in his career, Donovan Mitchell is nowhere near the player Anthony Davis was three years back, and no one should suggest this to be the case.

That said, as Jefferson alluded to, Toppin, Quickley, and Grimes are not the same types of prospects that Ingram, Ball, and Hart were and the Lakers still ended up parting ways with them in the hopes of winning a championship which, as we all know, they did during the big man’s first year in Los Angeles.

To Jefferson, the idea here is that if Rob Pelinka was willing to pull the trigger on that deal, Leon Rose should be open to doing the same in this scenario.

Trade Talks Have Stalled Between Knicks and Jazz

As things currently stand, New York still appears to be interested in getting a deal done to bring Mitchell to Madison Square Garden, even going as far as to engage Utah and the Lakers in the hopes of working out a multi-team exchange.

Having said that, in a July 29 appearance on “The Rally,” The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that talks between the Knicks and the Jazz have hit an impasse.

“As of right now, sources tell me that talks between the Jazz and the Knicks around a Donovan Mitchell trade have stalled out…I’m told there hasn’t been contact between the two sides in roughly the last two weeks,” Charania said.

Since this report surfaced, outside of the aforementioned discussions about a 3-team deal, little progress has been made when it comes to New York’s pursuits of Mitchell.

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