RJ Barrett deal was Knicks solace after disappointing Donovan Mitchell

The Knicks are “shocked and disappointed” that they didn’t get their man Donovan Mitchell and that he’s headed to Eastern Conference rival, the Cavaliers.

Cleveland would make up a backyard from Darius Garland and Mitchell, and on paper, it’s clear that he’s ahead of the Knicks. Jazz stinger indeed.

There are indications that the Knicks didn’t stand a chance of putting up a top show before jazz head Danny Inge fell in love with the Cavaliers’ package that included three unprotected first-round picks — something Knicks president Leon Rose refrained from doing.

It was no coincidence that the Knicks announced the official signing of RJ Barrett to a contract extension moments before ESPN broke the story that Mitchell had been tied to Cleveland.

In fact, according to an NBA source, the Knicks’ preference was not to sign Barrett for a massive contract extension at the moment, preferring to at least wait until the mid-October deadline to see him at training camp or even July 1 tied up for free. Agency.

Barrett’s formulation was before the time of Rose and CEO William Wesley. Scott Perry, GM of the Knicks, picked Barrett in 2019, and even then it wasn’t unanimous.

The Knicks announced their extension to RJ Barrett after losing to Donovan Mitchell.
Charles Wenselberg/New York Post

“They didn’t want to pay RJ now, they like RJ but he’s not one of their buddies,” an NBA source said. “The preference was to trade him on a Donovan deal. A few weeks ago, if they got Donovan without Barrett in the deal, they wouldn’t pay RJ now.

Once the Knicks caught wind, the Cavaliers were up front for Mitchell, the source said, they took a step toward agreeing terms with Barrett.

“They had to do something,” the source said.

The Knicks still believed they could cut a deal without Barrett and offer a better venture capital, but by then, Ainge’s talks with the Cavaliers had accelerated and the Knicks were unable to regain control of their fate.

The Knicks’ initial refusal to give up three unprotected picks in the first round if Barrett was in the deal proved to be a decision Rose would have to live with.

It’s unclear if three unprotected picks were offered in the first round in a non-Barrett deal. ESPN reported that the Knicks’ best showing was two unprotected picks and the third with the top 4 protected.

The Knicks’ chief strategist, Brock Aller, previously worked as a Cavaliers expert, and is a friend of owner Dan Gilbert, so presumably the Knicks were aware of the offers they were facing. If they don’t, then the Knicks failed.

Ainge ended up accepting three preliminary runs for the Cavaliers, two swaps, Colin Sexton, who came out with knee surgery, disappointing lottery pick Laurie Markanen and 2022 first-round pick Ochai Agbaji.

Donovan Mitchell looks at #45 of the Utah Jazz
Donovan Mitchell is now with the Cavs, leaving the Knicks to see where he goes next.
Getty Images

There is a feeling around the league that all things being equal, Ainge preferred to keep Mitchell off Broadway. Mitchell wanted his hometown Knicks and the chances of him becoming an even bigger star loomed in the media capital. (Mitchell seemed excited on social media to join Garland in the backyard.)

“I think Danny was thinking that if he’s going to give it to New York, he’s going to want to steal them,” another NBA executive said. “He knew how much they wanted it.”

Whatever the details about why the Mitchell deal failed, some league officials feel the Knicks missed a golden opportunity to get a local star who wants to play in New York. These opportunities don’t come around often.

“They didn’t get it, period,” said one NBA member.

In college, Barrett was nicknamed “Maple Mamba” – a nickname he no longer held after Kobe Bryant’s death. Now his nickname, after a four-year $120 million contract extension that includes incentives, is “The Franchise.”

Rose’s statement called him “the core of our team”.

“We believe he will continue to improve because of his passion for the game and dedication to his profession,” Rose added.

However, one team executive compared him to Tobias Harris as “the third best player on the opposing team”.

“RJ Barrett is a skilled player who lacks the elite sportsmanship and physical dimension to be a franchise player, but whose virtues are competitiveness, scoring skills and durability,” said CEO. “But he needs better ability, the ability to work without the ball and consistency.”

The Knicks still have 11 first-round picks over the next seven years although that number may drop once the NBA finishes its investigation into the alleged manipulation of Galen Bronson.

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