The Knicks and Jazz are Donovan Mitchell’s ideal trading partners, but imperfect negotiating partners.


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It’s been almost a week since it was reported that the New York Knicks and Utah Jazz were discussing a possible trade for three-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell. The off-season has come to the point where it should end. However, this does not happen.

The situation with Mitchell and Kevin Durant remains. Again, a tense process was expected all along—especially with Mitchell and the Knicks.

There is something logical about Mitchell being in New York. He is from the area. The Knicks front office compiled a roster of encouraging young players and plenty of draft picks in hopes of using them one day to get a star. Mitchell has always been one of the intended targets. Meanwhile, the Jazz is rebuilding. They don’t care as much about a trade with the Knicks as they do with a trade with the New Yorkers. But even though the two teams seem like the perfect couple, it’s no coincidence that it takes time to figure it out.

In an article published last week, I compared Jazz CEO Danny Ainge to Philadelphia 76ers president Daryl Maury in that both have strong enough stomachs to ride out awkward situations—a reference, of course, to how Maury held on to Ben Simmons in during the last months. season, even as the discomfort between Simmons and Philadelphia became more and more unbearable. But in reality, Ainge’s business personality is slightly different from Mori’s.

From time to time, when Mori falls in love with the player, he will chase the exchange. Ainge is known for setting a price for the guy he’s trying to make a deal with, or whoever he’s trying to acquire, and then waiting for the situation until someone hits the exact price.

Would you like to trade six or seven first round players for Mitchell? Excellent. Ainge will hang up and run off to the golf course with no regrets.

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri has a similar negotiating strategy. Some might call him stubborn. Given the success that both Ujiri and Ainge have achieved, it would be more correct to call it principled.

So this adventure drags on (even if New York intuitively seems like Mitchell’s next stop), and not just because of the characters on Jazz’s side.

Ainge’s mentality belies the Knicks’ reputation.

Leon Rose is the president of the New York team, but he doesn’t make most of the day-to-day sales calls. This is most commonly done by Brock Aller, vice president of basketball and strategic planning, who oversees the management of the pay cap. From time to time, someone else takes the reins, especially when another Knicks executive has a strong relationship with the head of the opposite front office they’re trying to make a deal with.

General manager Scott Perry was instrumental in draft deals with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Detroit Pistons due to his relationships with Thunder general manager Sam Presti and Pistons general manager Troy Weaver. Both Perry and Weaver worked under Presti at OKC.

However, most often Aller talks on the phone. Rose often steps in towards the end to complete the deal.

Aller is obsessed with marginal value, which should refresh Knicks fans who are still traumatized by teams from the past who unnecessarily threw first-round picks into the fireplace. He wants to hold on to pickaxes and acquire others. He has been known to shrink teams just for extra player draft rights, which is far more trivial for most others.

Thus, the Jazz and Knicks have the quintessential dynamic to drag out negotiations.

One party is known for setting a price and sticking to it; the other is known for trading on such small details that sometimes trading partners give in just to end the conversation and close the deal.

What does the draft rights mean for this 27-year-old dude who was selected 47th seven years ago?

Maybe one side got so desperate that they stumbled upon the other’s asking price. Or maybe they both understand that it will be better for everyone if they meet in the middle, and because of this, something will be done sooner. But the Knicks aren’t the only team chasing Mitchell. If this saga ends up taking longer than it does now, then the personalities involved will likely play their part.

Whether the Mitchell Knicks deal happens or not comes down to the fact that the cost will be much more than marginal.

For all the talk about how many picks the Jazz want back for the 25-year-old, it’s become clear over the past week that the number of picks isn’t as important as the quality of them.

The Knicks have four first-round picks from other teams (the Washington Wizards in 2023, the Dallas Mavericks in 23rd, the Pistons in 23rd, and the Milwaukee Bucks in 25th), and also all their own. Each of Dallas, Washington, Detroit and Milwaukee is protected. A lot can happen before 2025, and injuries can always see a team drop in the standings, but the Bucks’ pick is unlikely to be in the lottery. The Mavs will most likely hit the 20th anniversary next summer. The other two choices, because of how protected they are, can never be better than the ninth.

The discussion was about how many draft picks the Jazz wanted. But if the Knicks were to hand out, say, six first-rounders for Mitchell, there would be a significant difference between sending four players from other teams, plus one unprotected in 2023 and one protected in 2025, and sending four unprotected players. their own, as well as Washington and Detroit. The latest deal sets New York’s future apart from the first. And the discrepancy between these two packages requires more than a barter exchange at a pawnshop.

The irony of the Knicks’ position is that in another world, they might not have had to include so many picks in a Mitchell deal.

This team has prepared well since Rose took over the front office, turning down the 2020 and 21 drafts with Obie Toppin (#8 in 20th), Immanuel Quickly (#25 in 20th), Quentin Grimes (#1 ). 25th in 21st), Miles McBride (36th in 21st) and Jericho Sims (58th in 21st). Each of these players has a chance to make a real difference to the winning team. Some are already at this level. (It’s too early to talk about Trevor Keels runner-up in 2022.) And then there’s 22-year-old R. J. Barrett.

But last season, the Knicks signed veterans to replace many of the aforementioned young lads, a strategy that could damage trade talks with other teams. If Toppin, for example, could play consistently in 2021/22, he could be of great value. Instead, he was a strict stand-in, and if the Knicks insist he’s better than him in trade talks with the Jazz or anyone else, it’s easy to counter by asking, “If he’s better than the 16-minute player, why are you playing? is he only 16 minutes?

If the Knicks had played more with Toppin, if they had spearheaded Quickley’s attack before the last few weeks of the season, then perhaps one or both could explode before spring (a time when the performance of losing teams is always in doubt). ), and perhaps hypothetically the higher cost of these guys could save them a pick or two in the Mitchell trade.

Quentin Grimes’ success in Las Vegas, where he just made the Summer League First Team, certainly won’t hurt the Knicks’ cause. As is Ainge’s reputation for loving combo guards. He was a big fan of Quickley getting into the 2020 draft.

But none of that matters unless the Knicks and Jazz find a way to meet in the middle.

The Jazz know the Knicks have dreamed of a star for years. The Knicks know their B-pack is better than any A-pack from other rumored Mitchell fans. Both parties are diligently trying to make a deal.

They are ideal trading partners, but imperfect negotiating partners. For now, it seems like each side is waiting for the other to blink.

(Photo by Danny Ainge: Jeffrey Swinger/USA Today)

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