The New York Knicks and Utah Jazz were engaged in trade talks all summer that would’ve seen Donovan Mitchell come to the Big Apple.
In the end, Mitchell was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a deal that not many people saw coming. In Cleveland, Mitchell will join a blossoming core that could become a true title threat in the coming years.
As for the Knicks, they are left holding the bag yet again as they were in the past with LeBron James (twice), Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
According to Fox Sports 1 insider Ric Bucher, there may have been another reason Mitchell landed with the Cavs instead of the Knicks, and it has nothing to do with the offers that were made.
Punishment for Mitchell
In the case of trades, the team trading their star will usually want to look for the best offer available instead of the player’s preferred landing spot. This scenario was an interesting one because it seemed like the Knicks fit both of those bills.
However, the Jazz ended up choosing the Cavaliers as their trade partner, but Bucher says that was payback for Mitchell.
“Why Donovan Mitchell wound up with the Cavs…(Learned yet another reason after recording the podcast: some Jazz officials were not happy that Mitchell wanted out and viewed sending him to CLE — rather than home to NY — as payback),” he said.
The NBA is a business, something that’s repeated very often across all professional sports, but emotional decisions certainly happen. However, this would be a very strange time to see something like that pop up as the trade package for Mitchell shapes the Jazz’s rebuild for the next several years.
The Knicks were not open to meeting the Jazz’s demands, whether that’s including a wheelbarrow of draft picks, or trading both RJ Barrett and Quentin Grimes in the same deal. This might’ve led the Jazz to seek other partners and the Cavs offer proved too good to refuse.
Utah Jazz general manager Danny Ainge was able to get a massive return for Rudy Gobert from the Minnesota Timberwolves, so it’s clear he was looking for something similar, or even bigger, for Mitchell. The Knicks just weren’t the team willing to give him that despite having the assets.
With the trade now in the rearview mirror, the Knicks can move forward and focus on getting ready for the upcoming season.
The Knicks did land Jalen Brunson this summer, so it’s not like the offseason was a total bust after losing out on Mitchell.
He solves a long-running issue for the Knicks by filling the point guard void, but he alone won’t be enough to move the needle for the team. There’s a chance they could fight for a playoff spot, but it’s tough to make the case they are better than teams like the Heat, Bucks, Celtics, Nets, Cavs, or Sixers, so they would be scratching for a play-in spot.
It’s clear the team has improved, but they’ll need some of the youngsters to take some leaps forward if they want to make the postseason.