Not only are the New York Knicks going up against Donovan Mitchell and the Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs, but players that could’ve gone to Utah in a possible trade have been invaluable for the Knicks. New York’s 102-93 win over Cleveland at the Garden on Sunday gave the team a 3-1 series lead.
The series was supposed to be all about the Donovan Mitchell Show, but he failed to show up in Games 3 and 4 at MSG. It’s still too early to count the Cavaliers out completely as the Knicks still need to win one of the next three games (hopefully Game 6 and 7 won’t be necessary), but not many people predicted the dominance that New York would be putting on display in the postseason.
It was last September when the Knicks were clowned for not trading for Mitchell. The Cavaliers jumped into the conversation and met Danny Ainge’s demands to execute a Cleveland-Utah deal. The Jazz wanted three unprotected first-round picks and a slew of young players, and that’s what the Cavaliers gave up.
Mitchell’s strong regular season performance that resulted in being named an All-Star starter didn’t help the Knicks. It only made people criticize Leon Rose and the front office more for not going all-in, but the playoffs have been a completely different story.
4 Knicks that might’ve been in Utah if New York-Cleveland would’ve completed Donovan Mitchell trade
4: Obi Toppin
It’d be an understatement to say that Knicks fans have been thrilled with the way that Obi Toppin has performed in the playoffs thus far. In Game 4, Toppin was especially key as Julius Randle was benched for the entire fourth quarter. The 25-year-old finished with five points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes. Five of his eight rebounds were offensive rebounds.
Toppin was aggressive on offense, pulling up for a deep three (Obi Curry?) and even showing his moves off as he drove to the basket.
It was reported shortly before the trade deadline this year that the Knicks and Jazz were having “exploratory trade talks” involving Toppin for Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt. The Lakers swooped in and got that deal done, but it was still thought that Toppin could be on the move. New York ended up making only one trade for Josh Hart.
That wasn’t the first time that the Knicks reportedly had talks with the Jazz that involved Toppin. Over the summer during the height of the Donovan Mitchell rumors, it was reported that New York offered Utah packages that included Toppin.
In retrospect, especially with Randle’s nagging ankle injury, Knicks fans should be more grateful than ever that Obi Toppin remained in New York. The playoffs have been Obi’s time to shine!