Like clockwork every offseason, Knicks fans are building up home that the battered franchise may secure a marquee free agent, or score a top-tier talent in a trade.
Those hopes are usually dashed, as star players consistently spurn the basketball Mecca in favor of other teams, and leave fans continuing to thirst for a savior of New York hoops.
Less-than surefire rumors have swirled in recent years about players like Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Zion Williamson (who dashed fans’ hopes last month with comment committing to the Pelicans).
But there is one big-name that some insiders believe could be wearing a different jersey next season, and may see Madison Square Garden as a desirable landing spot: Donovan Mitchell.
The 25-year-old Utah Jazz shooting guard came into the league as the 13th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, and quickly surpassed expectations, making 3 All Star games in his first 5 seasons, and drawing comparisons to NBA greats like Dwyane Wade.
Utah has made the playoffs all 5 of Mitchell’s season, but they’ve failed to advance to a conference finals — including this season, when they fell to the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs by a 4–2 margin.
And while Jazz fans have adored their 6’1” ball-dominant wing, there have been constant rumors surrounding Mitchell’s long term future in Utah.
Those talks boiled over again recently, when news that Utah’s All Star center Rudy Gobert was unhappy with the team’s current makeup, and asked the franchise to trade either him or Mitchell.
Meanwhile, Mitchell has been coy about his long term desires, and notably did not close the door on a trade request after the team’s early playoff exit.
“My mindset is to win,” the shooting guard said, while not answering a reporter’s question about a potential change in teams. “Right now, I am not really looking at that. For me, I just want to win.”
“I’ll think about it in a week, and go from there.”
For more coverage of Donovan Mitchell and the Knicks, head to amNY.com.
The University of Louisville is under contract with the Jazz for the coming season, as well as the 2 following years, which would typically quash a team’s fears that a player could push his way out — though the modern NBA has seen several examples of players forcing a trade while under a multi-year contract.
James Harden, a similarly ball-dominant shooting guard, notably forced a trade from the Houston Rockets to the Brooklyn Nets with 3 years remaining on his deal, before forcing another trade 2 years later to Philadelphia. Ben Simmons, who the Nets got back from the 76ers in that trade, had sat out the entire season while his trade request was pending — which forced the hands of his previous franchise.
Losing Mitchell would be upsetting for Jazz fans, but their consistently mid-tier roster may be in desperate need of a radical shake up, and may not be the worst long term option for the franchise.
Instead, they could look to cash in on Mitchell’s prime-career trade value and deal him for young assets and draft picks.
Enter, the Knicks.
New York’s roster boasts plenty of below-25-year-old players — including RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley, Mitchell Robinson, and Cam Reddish — and they have managed to maintain most of their future draft capital.
That puts James Dolan’s franchise in the rare position of solid buyers in the NBA trade market.
The team made headlines last month when Knicks executives showed up courtside at the Jazz’s game one matchup against the Mavericks — which irked Utah brass, who are more-than-aware of the rumors linking their star to New York.
And the love between the Big Apple and Mitchell seems to be mutual, as the New York State-born player has taken to social media to express his fandom of the New York Mets.
If Utah was willing, the Knicks could offer a solid package of picks.
Any trade would likely have to involve spotty-forward Julius Randle for contract purposes (though he would seem to be a solid fit with Gobert), and the team could offer some combination of draft picks and Grimes/Quickly/Reddish.
Bringing Mitchell to the bright lights of New York City would immediately make the Knicks a playoff contender, and could make them a favorable destination for other marquee free agents and trade targets.
Thus far, the Jazz front office has been mum on the idea of moving him, but things are well-known to happen quickly in the NBA.