After months of speculation and reported pursuits, the New York Knicks ultimately lost out on the Donovan Mitchell sweepstakes, as the Utah Jazz opted to trade their star guard to the Cavaliers on September 1 in an exchange that sent Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji, three unprotected first-round picks, and two pick-swaps to Cleveland.
The franchise’s failed efforts to acquire the three-time All-Star sparked some serious outrage amongst fans and pundits alike, with many questioning the ultimate decision by the front office to hold onto the assets they cultivated with the sole purpose of clearing cap space that would have made a Mitchell trade possible.
Now left standing with a bevy of draft capital and nowhere to go with their aspirations to make a big-time move, it’s anyone’s guess what the Knicks could decide to do as we head into 2022-23.
To some, the team should try to find a way to rid themselves of power forward Julius Randle and his lofty four-year, $117 million contract. Others may simply wish to see New York stand pat and see how the club’s re-tooled cast of characters can perform together.
However, Marc Berman of the New York Post recently reported in a September 1 piece that the Knickerbockers are still very much interested in making a splashy move, and noted that OKC Thunder rising star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could be a possible trade target.
“The Knicks will be on the lookout for the next disgruntled player who goes on the trading block with Oklahoma City point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander previously mentioned. Ironically, the Knicks passed on him in the 2018 draft, much like they whiffed on Mitchell in 2017,” Berman wrote.
Berman would go on to argue that Gilgeous-Alexander could actually be a better fit with the Knicks’ newest floor general Brunson than Donovan Mitchell would have been.
Gilgeous-Alexander’s a Rising Star
Throughout his four-year NBA career, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has managed to establish himself as a legitimate franchise player and as one of the best talents currently in the league.
After having spent his first two seasons in the association serving as a mere role player for both the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City, the former 11 overall pick from the 2018 draft finally got the opportunity to serve as top-dog on his own team 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.
Last season, in particular, Gilgeous-Alexander had the best campaign of his young career, as he finished the year off with averages of 24.5 points, 5.9 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and just shy of a block per game.
Though the Thunder have missed the postseason in both years the combo guard has served as top dog, considering the franchise has been in a full-fledged tank mode throughout this time span the 24-year-old deserves somewhat of a pass for these shortcomings.
OKC Guard ‘Better Fit’ for Knicks
As mentioned, Berman stated in his article that he believes Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a “better fit” as a backcourt running mate alongside new Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson than Donovan Mitchell would have been.
There’s certainly a strong case to be made that could back up this sentiment.
From his 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 the Jazz guard will be turning 26 this September), Gilgeous-Alexander seems to have many advantages over New York’s previously coveted young star.
Though Mitchell may have the advantage when it comes to successfully leading teams in the NBA, guiding Utah to the postseason every season since being drafted in 2017, from a sheer talent and upside standpoint, Gilgeous-Alexander may very well be a better option for the Knicks in the long-run.