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Former GM Scott Perry: “Donovan Mitchell wasn’t that singular force“

The former Knicks honcho revealed the reasons for New York’s decision to pass on a trade.

New York Yankees v New York Mets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

If you’re one of those people still dwelling on the missed opportunity of New York landing Donovan Mitchell last summer, worry no more as we finally got an explanation for that outcome.

Former Knicks GM Scott Perry was the guest of Hoop Genius Podcast earlier this week and—now out of such a position within the organization and able to speak on everything he did openly—he revealed the reasons for New York to pass on trading for Mitchell in the summer of 2022.

At the end of the day, Perry made it sound like the Knicks based their decision on Mitchell’s lack of success in the postseason while playing for the Utah Jazz.

“[Mitchell] was a good player, but he needed more around him to win,” Perry started. “If he was that singular force, Utah probably would have been in the Conference Finals. But he wasn’t that singular force.”

Mitchell spent five seasons in Utah getting All-Star nods in his last three years playing with the Jazz. He was traded to Cleveland last summer in exchange for Ochai Agbaji, Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, the Cavs’ unprotected first-round picks in 2025, 2027 and 2029, and potential first-round pick swaps in 2026 and 2028.

While in Utah, Mitchell and the Jazz made the postseason every year, but they never got past the Western Conference semifinals. The two times they made it there, they lost 4-1 against the Rockets in 2018 and 4-2 against the Clippers in 2021.

Perry praised Mitchell, mind you, saying the guard is an “excellent basketball player,” and a “tremendous young man, New York kid.”

Mitchell is an Elmsford, NY native and a renowned New York Mets fan. He is also a player who, not even sharing the floor with the most dominant interior big man in the NBA for the past few seasons (Rudy Gobert was an All-Star in 2020, 2021, and 2022 and named Defensive Player of the Year in 2018, 2019, and 2021), was able to make it past the second round of the playoffs.

“You got to ask yourself: if the other team (Cleveland in this case) is wanting to take two-thirds or three-quarters of all your young talent, and all of your draft capital... is what’s left behind going to good enough for you to win rather than hold on to what you have and be a little patient?” Perry pondered.

The Knicks reportedly offered Utah RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, and two unprotected first-round picks in a final attempt to trade for Mitchell. They balked at offering more than that, refusing to throw Quentin Grimes into the deal on top of the other assets.

Perry said that the Knicks fanbase “want names,” reasoning that there are other ways to build strong and winning teams, such as the Detroit Pistons squad he helped craft back in the mid-aughts that went on to back-to-back Finals and won the 2004 NBA championship.

“People forget,” Perry said. “We went to six straight conference finals, two finals in a row with ‘no names.’ We beat you with depth, and we were very talented.

“I’m not saying you can do that every time. [Having a superstar] might make it easier to build around,” he acknowledged. “But it’s not the only way to build and win.”

Perry touched on some other topics, such as hiring Tom Thibodeau because the front office wanted the Knicks to be “tougher” and a “good defensive team,” or signing smaller deals (Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis, Wayne Ellington, Elfrid Payton, Reggie Bullock, and Marcus Morris) in 2019 following the failure of landing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to, “get some veteran players to help young guys like RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson to play more.”

Last season, the Cavaliers enjoyed the Mitchell Experience in full by crashing out of the postseason early . . . at the hands of the New York Knicks.

A win’s a win.