Slowly but surely the NBA trade market and transaction treadmill are getting back to its usual breathing ways. It was Marc Berman from the New York Post who wrote the latest comprehensive report on the ongoing trade negotiations between the Utah Jazz and the New York Knicks last Saturday. The subject matter, of course, is guard Donovan Mitchell... with information related to newly minted Jazz CEO of basketball operations Danny Ainge and his demands.
While the piece written by Berman isn’t overly long, it touches on a lot of points worth checking one by one if only for the sake of getting everything right without leaving open the tiniest of doors. So here we are ready to break down all of the information he made public in his column for much easier digestion.
On the Knicks' major concern...
This is nothing new and anyone would understand the Knicks when it comes to their position in the negotiations: New York doesn’t want to pony up as many as Ainge’s demand of seven first-round picks and players.
That was the Jazz's initial proposition to the Knicks if they wanted to dress Mitchell in orange and blue. Reasonably, because New York has no pressure at all to complete this trade while Utah’s back is getting closer and closer to the wall if they want to launch a full rebuilding process ahead of next season.
Good for both sides of the negotiation, though, talks are seemingly back on track and—one has to assume—advancing toward finalizing a deal that would ultimately see Mitchell moving east.
All of that said, Berman stated very clearly in his piece that, according to sources, “the Knicks’ major concern is giving away too many future assets.”
No need to include the rest of the statement, because it should be very obvious: what would the Knicks do with Mitchell and Jalen Brunson (and even RJ Barrett and/or Julius Randle) if their draft coffers are emptied after the trade? There wouldn’t be much tradable talent left on the roster, and the draft picks would be minimal—if there at all. Alas: no more moves in the near future to bolster the team and turn it into a legitimate contender.
On the Knicks' expectations if they land Donovan Mitchell...
The front office believes “adding Mitchell would be good enough for a 10-game leap to 47 victories”, reports Berman. ESPN recently dropped their blatantly wrong 2022/23 season projections, pegging the Knicks for a 39-win season only improving by a margin of two victories on their record from last season.
While reporting those expectations from the Knicks FO, Berman shared a bit of information that shouldn’t fly under the radar, stating that the Knicks would are “excited that a backcourt tandem of Jalen Brunson and Mitchell, with RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson in the frontcourt, and Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley as the top two guards off the bench, would make them a top-six Eastern team.”
That sentence above is key if only for one reason: for that to happen the Knicks would need to retain all of Rose, Quickley, and Barrett at the very least. One name Berman didn’t mention was that of a certain Quentin Grimes, which brings us to the next point.
On Quentin Grimes/RJ Barrett getting traded away...
The narrative and reports have colored the Jazz interested in adding the up-and-coming Quentin Grimes via trade instead of already-established (entering his fourth season) RJ Barrett. A few days ago another report emerged about Utah’s interest in Derrick Rose.
There is now more wood thrown to the negotiations fire as Berman wrote that “the belief around the league [is that] Thibodeau would prefer to give up Barrett in a deal than shooting guard Quentin Grimes.”
Uh, oh, the stove is heating.
This wouldn’t only align with Ainge’s reported interest in adding Grimes, but it could also mean that there is a realistic pathway toward a deal that involves the young shooting guard instead of other pieces such as Immanuel Quickley or the very own RJ Barrett. About that latter name, though, the truth is that Barrett was never really considered a viable asset for the Jazz to target—until of course Thibodeau of all men seemingly entered the equation.
This development opens an entirely new world to the prospective final package New York might end up sending to Utah. Of course and again, Ainge is still not convinced about landing Barrett—who has a contract extension pending and might demand a max deal—and would rather get Grimes in exchange for Mitchell.
One floated package that Utah might have asked from the Knicks, reported by ESPN insider Stephen A. Smith, would “include Barrett along with at least six first-round picks”. He later reported that the Knicks “may be comfortable giving up four first-rounders.” Call me skeptical, but this being Stephen A. I’d take his words with a grain of salt and put them more on the opinion than the legitimate-report side of things.
Anyway, Berman also wrote that in the event of Barrett taking the flight to Salt Lake City, “Ainge likely would prefer to negotiate Barrett’s contract” instead of acquiring an already-extended player.
Whether these reports are true or not, this might foster a little war between Barrett and Thibs if the player buys into the idea that his coach just doesn’t believe in him going forward. On the other side of the spectrum, Berman reports that “Grimes would likely be amenable to joining Utah since a Brunson-Mitchell backcourt would be a roadblock to ever becoming a Knicks starter.”
On moving on from Julius Randle...
This is just collateral information from the trade rumors and reported negotiations out there. Everybody is giving their two cents about what the Knicks should and should not do, so it made sense for someone like Julius Randle to eventually make it to the conversation.
Speaking to Berman, a Western Conference scout said that along with adding Mitchell to a backcourt already featuring Barret, “the best scenario is if they can get rid of Randle in the process.’’ Of course, that’d take a third team entering the negotiations and complicating matters more than they already are.
Randle’s four-year, $117 million extension is kicking off this October. It includes a $29.5 million player option for the 2025-26 season. That’s a whole lot of money for Utah to swallow if they truly plan to embark in a rebuild without Mitchell and Rudy Gobert (traded to Minnesota) around going forward. Keep in mind Randle, as good as he can be, will be playing most of next season at 28 years of age and will also be entering the declining part of his career.
This is all for now, and the needle hasn’t truly moved that much in recent days for us to expect a deal to get completed any time soon.
We now know that Thibs might be open to losing Barrett, that Ainge seems locked into landing Grimes, and that Stephen A. Smith is still a madman hunting for clicks. All systems check.