Trying to keep track of the Donovan Mitchell negotiations is a bit exhausting, no? The Knicks appear to be the most logical suitor for the Jazz for myriad reasons, but neither side is budging on the price tag.
The negotiations are at the stage where both sides are trying to gain leverage through the media. Shams Charania of The Athletic recently reported a Knicks offer that would send Evan Fournier, Obi Toppin, salary filler, and two unprotected first-round picks (five in total) to Utah.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith is reporting that RJ Barrett might be in the mix in trade conversations. Even Marc Berman of the New York Post is back from a hiatus to chime in with multiple reports on the negotiations. That’s not even mentioning Utah beat writers and radio personalities who have been throwing their hats in the ring with reports.
There is no motivation for either team to budge right now, but the clock is ticking. Who is going to blink first?
If the Knicks refuse to meet Danny Ainge’s high asking price, they run the risk of starting the season without a done deal. That’s a risky move, but where there’s a risk there’s a reward. Let’s examine the worst-case scenario first.
If The Knicks roll into the season with their current roster and stumble out of the gates, they lose a lot of leverage in negotiations. Jalen Brunson could need time to build chemistry with his new teammates. There’s no telling which version of Julius Randle shows up. And RJ Barrett tends to be a slow starter who finds his rhythm as the season progresses. The urgency to make a move will ratchet up a few notches if the Knicks are scuffling.
However, the flip side is where the reward comes in. Streaking out to a fast start would alleviate the pressure to make a move and potential young players like Obi Toppin and Quentin Grimes could play well enough to boost their trade stock.
To be honest, I don’t know what to expect from this current Knicks group. They will likely fall somewhere in between the worst- and best-case scenario outcomes. As for the Jazz, they are on more of a time crunch. The leaked reports out of Utah are that they are comfortable with keeping Donovan Mitchell into the 2022-23 regular season.
But that doesn’t pass the smell test.
The 2023 draft class hype is taking off mainly because of two guys — Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson. Without going into a deep dive about either player, they look like franchise changers, albeit for very different reasons. Is Danny Ainge really willing to pass on Wembanyama or Scoot for an extra unprotected pick in 2029?
If Mitchell is still in Utah through the first 20 games of the season, it’s hard to see the Jazz tanking with the likes of the Spurs, Thunder, Rockets, Pacers, etc. Mitchell doesn’t seem like the type to pack it up and wait for a trade. As long as he’s playing for Utah, they will win their fair share of regular season games.
Ironically enough, Ainge’s haul from Minnesota in exchange for Rudy Gobert took away some of his leverage. Utah is looking to tear it down and rebuild despite what’s said publicly or leaked to the media. It’s only a matter of time before Donovan Mitchell is shipped off.
Can Ainge outlast Leon Rose in this staring contest?
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