In the hours since the Jazz agreed to trade All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell to the Cavaliers in a blockbuster deal, details of the Knicks’ failed pursuit have surfaced.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Jazz “preferred” the Knicks’ assets, but said the Knicks refused to include unprotected first-round picks in their offers. Additionally, New York resisted including Quentin Grimes and RJ Barrett in its proposals.
“When guard Immanuel Quickley was offered as a replacement for Grimes in the trade, Utah wanted three unprotected first-round picks as part of the package — but New York would only make a third first-round pick that included the 5 best protections,” Wojnarowski reported in a detailed look at how the Knicks failed.
The New York Post reported that the Knicks’ offer only included two first-round picks, with Barrett adding that the Knicks did not believe the Jazz had any offers that included three first-round picks.
In the end, they did. Cleveland sent three first-round picks, two pick trades, Collin Sexton, Ochai Agbjai and Lauri Markkanen to Utah to seal the deal. The Jazz got the three picks they coveted, the proven young scorer in Sexton instead of Barrett and the high-ceilinged guard in Agbaji instead of Grimes.
The Knicks resisted giving up a string of picks for Spurs guard Dejounte Murray ahead of free agency, opting to sign Jalen Brunson instead, but Mitchell has long been seen as a natural candidate for the franchise. All-Star in each of the last three seasons, Mitchell grew up in New York and his father worked for the Mets for two decades.
It quickly becomes clear that Knicks president Leon Rose values draft picks far more than previous Knicks executives. For the first time in a long time, the organization can say it has all of its future first-round picks, plus a handful of protected 2023 first-round picks from other teams.
Although Rose wasn’t afraid to make an aggressive offer to Brunson in free agency, he was cautious about any move that would force the Knicks to part with high picks in exchange for a player. Rose traded the Knicks’ first-round pick on draft night this year for future first-rounders.
Building through the draft is a tried-and-true formula for success for underdog franchises, but that’s not what the Knicks are about. Rose is trying to win, and the addition of Brunson reflects that desire. Even if the Knicks are disappointing this season, the chances of them landing a pick near the top of the lottery — and therefore, a potential star — are slim.
Rose may be just waiting for the right opportunity to step up for a star-studded private franchise, but her message is clear: These aren’t the same Knicks who recklessly throw down trumps to bring big names to New York. For better or for worse, Rose sticks to the plan.