Two weeks after the Utah Jazz sent Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves for an impressive haul of draft assets, talks of a deal centered around the remaining half of their NBA All-Star duo have now emerged.
Utah was set for a tough year ahead with Mitchell theoretically leading the remnants of their roster and with the emergence of these rumblings, it seems like their focus has fully shifted from the present to the future.
The 25-year-old Mitchell is one of the best scorers in the NBA today and could command something similar to what the Jazz received in their Gobert trade. He is coming off his third consecutive NBA All-Star appearance last year where he averaged 25.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 1.5 steals in 67 regular season contests.
The New York Knicks have emerged as the leading suitor for Mitchell given that they could send up to eight future first rounders to Utah in addition to a handful of promising young players. The Jazz, who have the leverage in this situation, have reportedly set the initial asking price for Mitchell at up to six draft picks together with Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley, and Obi Toppin.
A package of this magnitude would be a coup for recently installed Utah general manager Danny Ainge who was the architect of the Boston Celtics’ notorious fleecing of the Brooklyn Nets in 2013 that helped mold the foundation of their team that broke through to the NBA Finals this past season. The Jazz would be essentially conceding their upcoming season by dealing away Mitchell, though the upside was not really there to begin with and even the play-in tournament seemed like an optimistic outcome for them.
With the haul of draft choices that they could end up with following the Gobert trade and this potential Mitchell move, a rebuild at this junction is practically a no-brainer. Ainge has a proven track record from his aforementioned time with Boston and he should have the Jazz right back in the hunt within a couple of years, if not sooner.
While this makes all the sense in the world for Utah, the benefits for New York are not as crystal clear. The recent big move to pry away free agent Jalen Brunson from the Dallas Mavericks means that their starting backcourt with him and Mitchell, both 6’1 guards, will be defensively challenged. Mitchell and Brunson will also have to share the ball with the Knicks’ incumbent high-usage players Julius Randle and RJ Barrrett.
Giving up on their young players would be quite disappointing as well given the progress that they showed this past season where their fanbase clamored for them to have more playing time at the expense of their veterans. A Mitchell deal built around New York sending over Randle as the main piece would be ideal, yet it seems like the interest for the 27-year-old forward is quite mum around the league.
As it stands, a theoretical Knicks line-up with Mitchell, Brunson, Randle, Barrett, and Mitchell Robinson defending the paint would seem to be a lock for one of the lower playoff seeds in the Eastern Conference. The upside for them does not seem to be justified considering what they have to give up, but this seems to be par for the course for this New York team that perennially takes win-now moves.
This would lock up the Knicks in mediocrity for the next few years, though a lucky break here and there could always lead to a better outcome than expected.
Once again, Ainge seems to have distorted the offseason market with his brilliant Gobert trade and pulling this Mitchell move off will cement him as one of the best dealmakers in the history of the NBA. The interest in the Jazz’s star guard is there and it will be interesting to see what New York ultimately has to give up to get their man.