Since hopes were dashed of seeing the New York Knicks land Donovan Mitchell this offseason, as he was ultimately dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers on September 1, focus from fans and media pundits alike have now shifted to figuring out what the franchise’s next endeavor could wind up being.
Though to some the belief is that the ball club should focus its attention on simply working with the foundation they currently have in place, many others are hoping that Leon Rose and company are still high on the idea of making a splashy move before the start of the regular season.
Should this latter agenda actually be a desire for the Knicks, there are many different avenues the franchise could end up embarking on, with a popular one being a pursuit of OKC Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
During these initial weeks after Mitchell was sent to Cleveland, NBA writers and beat reports have been all over the idea of New York now setting their sights on a trade for the 24-year-old, as many believe he could wind up being shopped during this coming campaign.
However, Hoops Hype’s Michael Scotto poured some cold water on this heavily discussed trade idea in a September 15 article, stating that Oklahoma City’s asking price is bound to be quite high, perhaps even higher than what Utah’s was for their star guard.
“Marc Berman reported I believe that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a possible guy the Knicks could target, and I don’t see it,” Scotto wrote.
“If you think Utah wanted draft picks for Donovan Mitchell, what do you think Sam Presti is going to want for Shai? He just signed him to a max extension. Some people around Oklahoma City really like Shai.
“The injury to Chet Holmgren is going to stunt their ability to win this season, but Shai’s a guy they signed to that extension for a reason. They think he’s a guy that can be a building block for that team.”
Though Scotto does have a point when it comes to the lofty amount of draft capital OKC General Manager Sam Presti could ask for should he end up shopping Gilgeous-Alexander, how negotiations played out with the Jazz is not necessarily indicative of how New York will partake in these hypothetical talks.
Jazz Wanted Picks & Barrett From Knicks
For years now, the goal for Sam Presti has been to play the long game and spend his time tanking seasons away in hopes of landing high-end slots on the draft board and, in turn, replicating the successful stretch of draft nights from 2007 to 2009 that netted the Thunder Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden, respectively.
With this desire, it has helped the franchise acquire the rights to 19 first-round picks over the next five years and 38 picks in total when combining second-round selections into the mix.
Of course, for them to accomplish this objective and continue to secure optimal draft positions, racking up losses is going to be a vital aspect of their game plan, which means, unlike what was the case with the Utah Jazz, key contributors in the Knicks’ current rotation such as RJ Barrett likely will not be sought after commodities, as he’s a 20-plus point per game scorer who, on his own, could bring more wins to OKC than desired.
Per an August 23 report by SNY’s Ian Begley, sources had informed him that, alongside significant draft compensation, Utah was also high on the idea of bringing back New York’s 22-year-old wing in the exchange which, coupled with the team’s initial asking price of upwards of seven first-round picks, was far too steep of a price to pay.
Considering Oklahoma City’s commitment to the tank, their draft pick asking price may be similar to that of Utah’s, but their desire to land noteworthy talents like Barrett will almost certainly be nonexistent.
Gilgeous-Alexander a Better Fit Than Mitchell
One could certainly make the argument that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could wind up being a better fit for this current Knicks roster than Donovan Mitchell would have been.
In comparison to the Cavaliers’ guard, Oklahoma City’s rising star seems to possess many advantages, ranging from his sheer size (six-foot-six compared to six-foot-one) and distribution skills (31.3% assist percentage in 2021-22 compared to 27.7%) to his defensive abilities and age (24 years old while Mitchell will be turning 26 this September).
Since being selected with the 11 overall pick back in the 2018 NBA Draft, Gilgeous-Alexander has established himself as one of the most promising young talents in the association.
After spending his first two seasons in the NBA serving as a mere role player, the combo guard finally got his shot at leading his own squad in 2020-21, where he’s averaged 24.2 points, 5.9 assists, and 4.9 rebounds on 47% shooting from the floor ever since and currently finds himself coming off of a 2021-22 campaign where he posted stellar averages of 24.5 points, 5.9 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and just shy of a block per game.