New York Knicks News

You Can Call Me “Mellow Yellow” About the Donovan Mitchell Trade

So, as DRed predicted, while the site was being revamped by Mike, Donovan Mitchell was, indeed, traded…to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

I just thought that the trade should get its own post. I even gave it a horrible pun title.

There are so many interchanging thoughts about this non-deal, so let me try to parse mine together.

1. Like the title says, I’m fairly accepting about the whole thing. Obviously, you all know me, I don’t think they should be striving to just get into the playoffs when they don’t have a team that’s much better than perhaps fluking into the #5 seed and a first round exit (and heck, with this Mitchell trade, it’s even harder to break into the top six, with Cleveland set up quite nicely). However, as the song says, “I’m not mad about fourteen.” In other words, whatever, it is what it is. We all knew that this was how Leon Rose was going to play it, so knowing that this was the way he was going to play it, my hope (as I noted a bunch of times last season) was that he would clear cap space, sign Jalen Brunson and then extend Mitch Robinson once Brunson was signed and, well, he did just that. Doing that at least showed that he understood that if he wanted this team to be an okay team, it wasn’t going to get there unless he dumped the guys he signed last season while keeping Mitch. So that was nice to see. Even if I don’t agree with the overall strategy, I at least liked the short term moves if he was to follow that strategy.

2. However, as we’ve pointed out a few times during the offseason so far, even with me liking the signing of Brunson and Hartenstein and the resigning of Mitch, the current team does not make sense. It just doesn’t. There are too many decent players for not enough minutes. Cam Reddish might be an interesting player. He probably won’t be, but he might, and there isn’t enough minutes to go around for everybody…even with Cam Reddish getting zero minutes! Think about that, the Knicks traded a slightly singed first round pick for Cam Reddish, who will be a free agent after this upcoming season, and their current plan is to not play him any minutes…and they still don’t have enough minutes to use optimally for the players that they have remaining after not playing Reddish any minutes! This team is built for a consolidation trade. It’s one of the most glaring cases of needing a consolidation trade that I’ve ever seen and yet…is there going to be a consolidation trade? There is still time to do so, of course. Donovan Mitchell, after all, was just traded, and the Utah Jazz are clearly not done making deals (they have a very much in-demand player in Bojan Bogdanovic, one pretty high in-demand player in Jordan Clarkson and one….maybe somebody wants him? player in Mike Conley. They’re going to deal at least Bogdanovic, and maybe even all three), and neither are the Lakers, who have Russell Westbrook burning a proverbial hole in their pocket at the moment (and possibly willing to deal two first round picks to get rid of him). Deals will still be made, so the Knicks might (hopefully?) be doing some more deals. They really, really need to.

3. Going back as to whether Donovan Mitchell should have been the guy that they consolidated with, it’s a fascinating question. Woj noted that this is where the Knicks and the Jazz stood when the Knicks basically cut off discussions and then the Cavs swooped in and said, “Fine, you can have three unprotected first round picks”:

When guard Immanuel Quickley was proposed as a replacement for Grimes in the trade, Utah wanted three unprotected first-round draft picks as part of the package — but New York would only do a third first-round pick that included top-five protections, sources said. Those packages would’ve included two second-round picks, two pick swaps and two expiring contracts from a third team, sources said. New York would’ve moved out Evan Fournier and first-round pick to a third team to spare Utah taking on Fournier’s remaining $37 million, sources said.

Back when the deal was first discussed, this is what I thought the deal would look like:

I figure we’re looking at Grimes, Fournier (for his salary to make the salaries work), one of IQ and Obi (maybe both) and five picks (two Knick picks and then three picks they acquired from other teams).

The Knicks, apparently, were willing to do RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, two unprotected picks in 2026 and 2024, two pick swaps in 2025 and 2027, Milwaukee’s top five protected 2025 pick (it’s annoying that Woj makes it sound like it was the Knicks’ top five protected pick, right?), two second round picks, and one more first round pick (presumably one of the protected ones they got from the other teams) used to dump Fournier on another team in exchange for two expiring contracts who would be sent to Utah. That’s a lot. Ainge obviously preferred to get three unprotected picks (plus Cleveland threw in the guy they just took in the lottery in the 2022 Draft, which is kind of sort of like a draft pick), so he accepted Cleveland’s offer instead.

But, again, Rose offered a lot. In other words, he obviously felt like getting a star player like Donovan Mitchell was worth a lot, and, well, they didn’t get a star player like Donovon Mitchell. Let’s use VORP for a second (I have no specific preference for VORP. I just wanted to pick something to see what the options look like out there). Let’s look at players in the NBA who were in the top 25 in VORP at age 25 or less, like Mitchell was (he was ranked 18th). You got Luka, you got Tatum, you got Trae, you got Dajounte Murray, you got Ja, you got Booker, you got TIME LORD?! (wow), you got LaMelo, you got Sabonis and you got Hali (tied for 25th). Three people on this list hilariously were dealt this year, but I would imagine none of those three would be on the move this year, as the teams who just dealt fir them would not want to give them up so soon. The other players sure don’t seem to be going anywhere, either, right?

So, if not Mitchell, then who? Who is going to make more sense for the Knicks while apparently also costing less than Mitchell did?

I didn’t want the Knicks to give up that much for Mitchell, so I am happy that the deal didn’t happen. But my concern is that I don’t think Leon Rose is happy that the deal didn’t happen. If he was willing to give up that much for Mitchell, and Mitchell is now off the block, then what’s next? What’s the move he makes instead of this one? If you go to #33 for VORP, Shai is there (23 last season). Is Shai the move? Would Shai actually cost less? Is Shai even available? Is the move to just tread water and hope something fluky happens?

I am not here to bury Leon Rose. I’m really not. I don’t think that not making this deal is a sign he is bad, or anything like that, but I do think that it doesn’t make him look good, either. It is hard to brag about Rose’s negotiating skills when he was already willing to give up so much. I don’t think that means his skills should be knocked, either, he made a bet that Ainge wouldn’t get three unprotected picks from any other teams and he bet wrong. That’s not a sign that Rose is bad by any means. It just isn’t a sign that he is specifically good, either.

I think, once again, we’re sort of in a stalling pattern, waiting to see the move that will make it clear how good of a GM Rose is. And while I’m mad about saffron, I’m not mad about that. You can call me mellow yellow.