The New York Knicks seem to believe they’re the odds on favorites to win this summer’s Donovan Mitchell sweepstakes, but even they must be looking for alternative routes of action should their ultimate goals not come to fruition.
Plan A is obviously to strike a deal with the Utah Jazz in an effort to bring the star guard to the Knickerbockers.
Plan B? An Eastern Conference executive recently told Heavy that New York may be looking toward Charlotte to inquire about targetting their highly-priced forward Gordon Hayward.
“That’s the thing, they do not have to trade for Mitchell. They can sit on these picks and see what else shakes free, or improve by just dealing off one or two picks. I think a lot of teams have considered Gordon Hayward a Plan B if they can’t get Mitchell or Durant. The Hornets have taken calls on him but they’re still figuring out what to do about him, about the Miles Bridges stuff, what direction they’re taking. I don’t know if the Knicks have made calls on him, but I know teams have.”
The executive added that, if healthy, Hayward’s game could help compliment two of New York’s top-billed players.
“He’d be good with what the Knicks have, with Brunson and R.J. Barrett, a bigger guy who can be a ballhandler. If he can stay healthy. That’s the only reason the Hornets would consider moving him, to get off that contract (two years remaining, $62 million) for a guy who has not been healthy.”
Since his 2016-17 All-Star campaign, injuries have become somewhat synonymous with Hayward, as he’s played over 52 games just once during this span.
That said, even with his minimal availability, since signing with the Hornets back in November of 2020 the small forward has still managed to produce admirably, posting impressive per-game averages of 17.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.1 steals on 46.6% shooting from the floor and 40.2% shooting from deep.
Knicks Hell-Bent On Acquiring Mitchell
Despite the presumed Gordon Hayward insurance policy, the Knicks are highly invested in getting a deal done for Donovan Mitchell.
So much so, in fact, that just recently The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Tony Jones broke the news in an August 16 report that after about a month-long stall out, New York and Utah have finally started backup trade talks involving the perennial All-Star.
“The Knicks and Jazz had a fresh trade conversation within the past week about potential packages for Mitchell, according to sources,” Charania and Jones said.
At just 25 years old, Mitchell has already managed to establish himself as one of the top players currently in the NBA and has averaged 23.9 points, 4.5 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game throughout his impressive five-year career.
Knicks Willing to Trade Obi Toppin
New York may have some reservations about what they’d be willing to give up in a deal for Mitchell, but in an August 3 interview with ESPN 700, The Athletic’s Tony Jones mentioned that the ball club would be open to shipping out their soon-to-be third-year big man Obi Toppin to the Jazz.
“I can tell you that the Knicks are amenable to giving the Jazz Obi Toppin, who’s a really young and high-energy, high-ceiling power forward,” Jones said.
Since being selected 8 overall back in the 2020 NBA Draft, Toppin has predominantly been used as a low-usage backup behind Julius Randle and, in turn, boasts rather underwhelming averages of just 6.7 points and 3 rebounds for his career.
However, when receiving a more prominent role within the rotation, the 24-year-old has absolutely shined, specifically when slotted into the starting lineup where he’s put up stellar averages of 20.3 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and just shy of a block on 57% shooting from the floor and 43.6% shooting from deep in such a role.
When doing a bit of deep diving, the numbers show that Toppin has the ability to be a legitimate star in this league.
On a rebuilding team like what Utah would likely be if they trade away Mitchell, perhaps his potential could start to shine through on a more consistent basis.