The Utah Jazz set NBA Twitter on fire Friday afternoon by trading All-Star center Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Once Rudy was gone, you could pretty much guess the reaction from most Knicks fans: “OMG THE JAZZ ARE BLOWING IT UP! TRADE FOR DONOVAN MITCHELL IMMEDIATELY, KNICKS, OR I WILL LIGHT MYSELF ON FIRE OUTSIDE OF MSG!”
Sadly for these Knicks fans, it doesn’t seem like the Jazz are planning to move Donovan Mitchell right now.
Jazz had been taking calls on much of roster outside of Donovan Mitchell prior to free agency, per teams in touch w/them at the time. @wojespn says they now plan to re-tool roster around Donovan Mitchell. Worth noting that they checked in w/TOR on Gary Trent Jr. earlier in week.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) July 1, 2022
This shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise. Utah hosts the 2023 All-Star Game, and there have been rumblings that Jazz ownership preferred to keep Mitchell at least until the All-Star festivities. Jazz team president (and legendary pick hoarder) Danny Ainge received an absolute HAUL in terms of assets in the Gobert trade, so they could easily pivot and put another quality player or two with Mitchell.
But let’s play devil’s advocate here and say that these reports are all just posturing by Ainge and the Jazz. Let’s say that they are still very willing to deal Mitchell right now for the right price. Minnesota just gave up a whopping FIVE first-round picks in the Gobert trade, if you count recent first-round pick Walker Kessler — three of which are totally unprotected. They owe Utah a top-five-protected pick in 2029. I don’t know how much they can get for Mitchell — who isn’t necessarily as good as Gobert, but is much younger and cheaper — but Ainge will certainly look for a similar haul. The Knicks have a treasure trove of young players and picks. They could do that kind of deal. But should they? How much sense does a Mitchell trade actually make for the Knicks?
Remember, these are no longer the Knicks of 2021-22. The team just signed point guard Jalen Brunson to a massive four-year, $104 million deal. If the Knicks making a Mitchell deal, they should do it with Brunson in mind, right? Stylistically, these two players have nothing in common — Mitchell is a freak athlete, while Brunson thrives more on guile. Mitchell was his team’s offensive hub, while Brunson usually deferred to Luka Doncic. However, both players are similar in terms of impact. Check out their per-36 numbers:
Mitchell scores nine points more per 36 — which makes sense, since he was “the man” offensively on that Utah team — but Brunson scored more efficiently. The rebound and assist numbers are basically a wash.
In terms of win shares:
- Mitchell: 7.2 win shares in 2266 total minutes
- Brunson: 7.5 win share in 2524 total minutes
Mitchell is clearly the better player since he carried a much higher scoring burden. But how big a difference is there between these two players? The margins look rather slim, if you ask me.
Of course, you could also trade Mitchell to pair with Brunson in a high-octane backcourt. However, both players share similar weaknesses, particularly on defense. Both are undersized, and neither is considered a plus defender. Put them together, and you might reap the same troubles Utah did in the playoffs, when their undersized, porous backcourt defense was shredded by...Jalen Brunson.
If Mitchell were a free agent and the Knicks were flush with cap space, you could totally make the deal and figure out these details later. But when you’re talking about giving up multiple unprotected picks — and make no mistake, that will be just the starting point of these negotiations — these pesky details could set the Knicks back a decade.
The Knicks front office signed Jalen Brunson to be the point guard of the 2022-23 New York Knicks. Brunson himself probably took on the challenge because he wanted to lead the Knicks at the point of attack. Based on his career body of work, he has earned the right to try and lead his own team. The Knicks have solid defenders in Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes to ease his defensive burden. This should be a fun backcourt! Let’s give it a chance before hitting up the trade machine and throwing all the kids (and multiple firsts) to Utah for Donovan Mitchell, who probably isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.