While the Knicks and Jazz go back and forth on Donovan Mitchell when trade packages are discussed in terms of the assets it will take Leon Rose and company to get an All-Star quarterback from Elmsford, NY, which is somewhat lost the level of the player in question.
Three-time All-Star at the age of 25. A player who averaged 23.9 points, 5.3 assists and 4.2 rebounds and shot 36.1 percent from three-point range in a brilliant five-year career. magnetic personality. A talent that the Knicks haven’t used since Carmelo Anthony and is now at its peak.
“Look, I don’t know what the expiration date is when they say he’s still young, but the guy is still young. He still has room to grow, and I think he will,” Thurl Bailey, a former jazz star and analyst for the team’s pre-match and post-match shows, told The Post in a telephone interview. “I think he’s already a superstar.”
As a Jazz employee, Bailey declined to discuss trade negotiations or how Mitchell would play at home in New York. He was ready to break the player he’d known since he joined the league five years ago.
Bailey had a court seat throughout Mitchell’s illustrious NBA career. He saw the former Louisville star, 13th pick in the 2017 draft, suddenly emerge as a rookie right away and grow into one of the sport’s best little guards. He witnessed a selfless and personable star who didn’t change as his bank account changed, often giving away his worn-out sneakers to young fans and chatting with people from the media to fans at the team’s hotel.
“He’s not the kind of guy who goes straight to the elevator or straight to the practice room,” Bailey said. “You can tell who gives souls, you can tell who the selfish guys are, and you can tell why guys do things, and Donovan is not the kind of guy who does it for publicity. He does it because he is. He was brought up with this quality, and he has not lost it. That tells me a lot about a player of his caliber.”
For Bailey Mitchell, it’s a complete package: an elite star who handles pressure well, he’s only 25 years old and already one of the sport’s best hitters, a charismatic and outgoing guy that other stars gravitate towards.
Of course, there are several questions. Mitchell is only 6’1″, and his defense has been criticized from time to time. He has a 3-6 career record and has been part of some very strong teams in Utah, especially a 52-win team last year that lost 2-0 to the Clippers in the second round of the playoffs.
It can be easy to forget, because Mitchell has basically been a star since joining the league, that he’s only now getting close to what should be his best basketball years. He won’t turn 26 until September. There is room for growth.
“One of the things Donovan can and will improve at is his leadership on the court. It’s okay to date a guy on your team from time to time,” Bailey said. “There is a way to do this. One of the elements I’ve been waiting to see [out of him] this is the attitude of the alpha dog. I would love to see a little more of that from Donovan, especially in the tough games, the tough parts of the season. I think it has it.
“Whoever is next to him respects him in this way. It doesn’t mean screaming all the time. It just means not taking on any bullshit by saying, “Come on guys, this is the moment.” I’ve seen a certain level of it, but I think it should be a little louder at this stage of the game.”
Perhaps the biggest question for Mitchell, if he really finds his way home to the Knicks, is what kind of star he will become. Could he be the #1 guy on a championship team? Does it fit better like #2? Will his presence allow the Knicks to attract a star in the future?
“I think he can be that guy in the right situation, with the right environment,” Bailey said. “Donovan really wants to get there and win, and it’s not just up to him. He plays a big role, but in today’s league you need to have a lot of different elements and ingredients.”
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