Donovan Mitchell to the Knicks rumors will not die. Even though they should.
New York made a bold move in recent days trading for OG Anunoby, a deal that could make them a more dangerous playoff team, but it is not bringing in the No. 1 option this team ultimately needs. That has led to a lot of speculation about what the Knicks’ next move might be, which at its core is speculation about who the next superstar to switch teams will be.
This brings us back to Donovan Mitchell — he had long been rumored to be a Knicks target before Jazz President Danny Ainge surprised everyone and traded him to the Cavaliers. Mitchell is a New York guy and has not shied away from saying he’d love to play for a New York franchise someday. Mitchell did not sign an extension with the Cavaliers last summer saying he could still do so this summer, but if that deal doesn’t get done early in the offseason — with Mitchell able to be a free agent in the summer of 2025 — then the Cavaliers have to consider a trade or risk losing him for nothing.
All that has fed the insatiable NBA trade speculation beast — would the Knicks try to trade for Mitchell now?
No. Or at least not with any urgency, reports Marc Stein in his newsletter. More importantly, the Cavaliers are shooting down anyone calling about a Mitchell trade right now anyway.
Initial indications are that the Knicks do not intend to mount an all-out pursuit of Donovan Mitchell. The Cleveland Cavaliers, for that matter, signaled to rival teams throughout December that they aren’t prepared to entertain Mitchell overtures anyway.
Here are a few quick thoughts:
• This is the right play by the Knicks. In some fantasy world where Mitchell becomes available at the deadline and the Knicks could trade for him with a lowball offer, sure, take a swing. In realty, none of that is going to happen.
• The Knicks need to trade for a true No. 1, a top-10 franchise cornerstone. Is Mitchell the guy New York needs? I’m not sold. Make no mistake, Mitchell is an elite scorer (28 points and 5.7 assists a game this season) and unquestionably a top 15 or so player in the league (depending on your ranking). He could help any team. However, what New York wants an Embiid/Doncic/Antetokounmpo level player, and there isn’t going to be one of those available at the trade deadline. Probably not next summer, either. Knicks president Leon Rose has been patient this long, is he suddenly going to abandon that to chase Mitchell?
• As noted by Stein, all reports say Cleveland isn’t listening to Mitchell trade offers anyway, so this is more a thought exercise than an actual trade idea.
• Cleveland needs to ride out this season with this core, see how they do in the playoffs, then answer some hard questions next summer. Can Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen play well enough next to each other to be the front line of a contender? Mobley will be extension eligible and he is an elite defender, but has his offensive game come around enough — or will it — to make him a true max player? Will Mitchell sign an extension? If he does, can he and Darius Garland form a championship-level backcourt? Do they play well enough off each other? Mitchell is just one cog in a much more complex set of questions Cleveland needs to ask itself, but it needs to see this team in the playoffs again this year to start to answer them.
• But Mitchell to the Knicks trade rumors will never die.