After missing out on Donovan Mitchell, where do the Knicks go from here?

Jan 4, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 4, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports /

The news has finally broken, and to the surprise of many, the New York Knicks will not be the team trading for Donovan Mitchell.

All opinions on whether or not the Knicks should have made this trade, what the offers were, and what it could have meant are hearsay now. New York will enter training camp without any clear All-Star candidates but remain fit with an exciting young group of players ready to make their mark on the growing franchise.

There is obvious disappointment and confusion about what happened, and it will lead to some dramatic takes about the team’s direction.

The fact of the matter is there may have been a less clear understanding of the team’s direction had they made the Mitchell trade. Without his presence, the franchise can finally put a genuine, thorough emphasis on organic roster building.

Why the Knicks did not trade for Donovan Mitchell

There has been a lot of smoke in the air about potential trade offers made this week, and rather than discuss the fundamentals of those deals, let’s discuss why no agreement was met at all.

It makes a lot of sense for the Cleveland Cavaliers to make the trade for Mitchell. They have an established All-Star in Darius Garland, a sure-fire young star in Evan Mobley, and one of the league’s best anchors, Jarrett Allen.

They were not agreeing to terms with Collin Sexton, and Garland’s growth all but solidified no future role for him. As far as the picks are concerned, Cleveland hopes they do not have much future value because they will be busy competing for the Eastern Conference championship.

Mitchell immediately propels them to this level with the roster how it is, and no additional moves need to be made. Mitchell could be the final piece for them. This would not be the case for New York.

If the Knicks had sent out any of their roster, there were immediate holes to fill. There is no player right now that would have been a “Robin” to Mitchell (unless you have a lot of faith in Julius Randle), and the team would have been a fringe playoff team.

Another trade would have been required, and the now gutted New York roster would struggle to have made this happen. I have said this before; it is all too reminiscent of the Carmelo Anthony trade in 2011.

There was some short-term success with Anthony, and many fans can bask in the glory of the 2013 season. The reality is that season, unfortunately, equated to nothing. It did not encourage a second star to join the Knicks, and the gutted roster never developed one on its own.

Yes, the scenarios are different, but there is some congruence to this, and this trade had the potential to be a setback rather than a step up.

The price for Donovan Mitchell was too high

The reality is the price of this trade did not justify the means for New York. The roster, with or without Mitchell, is not ready to contend for anything. The Knicks probably could have beaten the Cavs offer but it would have left them with more questions than answers.

Finding another trade partner would have been difficult, and trusting the organic jump of another player to this caliber is a massive bet when you consider how much was just given up.

If the team struggles at all, Mitchell enters unrestricted free agency in three years. It is not a huge window to flip a franchise around without many assets left.

Where the New York Knicks can go from here

Fans should be absolutely elated and excited about the prospects of building a roster around RJ Barrett, who just became the first New York drafted player to sign an extension like this in decades.

The Knicks have their entire starting five currently signed to multi-year contracts and are strapped with one of the deepest second units in the game. There is so much budding potential within the group as it is.

The team remains equipped with their assets in draft capital, which alone could lead to additional talent being added.

Look at this year’s NBA Finals teams. It was two teams in Golden State and Boston led by three homegrown stars and the bench that accompanied them. These teams did not jump the gun for an immediate solution, and then when players such as Kevin Durant, Andrew Wiggins, or Malcolm Brogdon did become available, these teams had the assets to go get them.

There is still much to be foreseen for this New York team, such as the roles of Quentin Grimes and Obi Toppin, the All-Star potential of Jalen Brunson, and the ceiling of RJ Barrett.

The Knicks became a better team this summer and did not risk a potentially risky overpay to get some immediate relevance. They continue to slowly build a competitive infrastructure and accumulate assets for something bigger down the road.

New York should continue to invest in their young talent and wait to see what they have before making their next move. Fans should be happy they have finally have a patient front office that is not willing to spend everything for the sake of doing so.

I am disappointed Donovan Mitchell will not be a Knick, too. But, I am equally excited today about the future of this franchise and everything they may have to offer down the road.