Donovan Mitchell has been traded from the Utah Jazz to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but a large portion of the ensuing discussion has surrounded a team that wasn't involved in the deal whatsoever: the New York Knicks.
Once it became clear that Mitchell was on the market in early July, several signs pointed to the All-Star guard eventually ending up in New York. The Knicks have an attractive package of young talent and future picks at their disposal and Mitchell, a tri-state area native, is represented by CAA -- the same agency for which Knicks president Leon Rose used to work.
The stars seemed to be aligned for Mitchell to head to the Knicks, but things came crashing down on Thursday and now it's the Cavs in position to become one of the Eastern Conference's best up-and-coming franchises -- not the Knicks.
Details continue to emerge about how the negotiations between the Jazz and the Knicks broke down, and apparently a deal was close to being consummated as recently as Sunday. Talks stalled, however, because the Knicks didn't want to include 22-year-old guard Quentin Grimes in the deal, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said on The Woj Pod. New York tried to substitute guard Immanuel Quickley in place of Grimes, and that's when Utah balked. Here's Woj with the specifics:
"Utah wanted RJ Barrett, Quentin Grimes and three first-round picks from New York. That would have been two unprotected and perhaps a protected -- up to top-five protected pick. ... But, the Knicks did not want to put Grimes in a deal. They were willing to do Immanuel Quickley, and with with Immanuel Quickley Utah's ask was three unprotected picks. They valued Grimes more than Quickley, and essentially New York said we'll do Quickley and RJ, but we want two unprotected picks and a protected third -- we essentially want what you want for Grimes, we want to put Quickley in that deal. And that was the end."
Wojnarowski added that Knicks management expected the negotiations to eventually resume (even after they signed Barrett to an extension on Monday, making a potential deal more complicated), but Cleveland swooped in on Thursday and the Jazz pulled the trigger before giving New York a chance to counter.
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The reports of negotiations have been fascinating to follow. There were versions of the deal that didn't include Barrett at all, and Wojnarowski also reported that in early July the Knicks offered Barrett, Obi Toppin, Mitchell Robinson and three unprotected first-round picks for Mitchell, which the Jazz rejected.
After seeing that initial offer, it's hard to comprehend why the Knicks were unwilling to include Grimes and/or a third unprotected first-round pick in their latest offer. The 25th overall pick in the 2021 draft, Grimes had a limited role as a rookie last season, averaging six points and two rebounds in 17 minutes per game with 40/38/68 shooting splits. But, clearly, the Knicks front office holds him in high regard if he was the roadblock to acquiring an All-NBA level guard.
Ultimately the Knicks may have gotten cold feet and pulled out of the deal either way, but arguably the most plugged-in reporter in the NBA said they could have Donovan Mitchell right now if they were willing to include Grimes in the trade.