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Does the Knicks signing of RJ Barrett put a Donovan Mitchell trade at risk?

It’s looking more and more precarious for a Donovan Mitchell deal

Utah Jazz v New York Knicks Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The New York Knicks signed RJ Barrett to an extension worth up to $120 million and it looks like that made a deal between the New York Knicks and Utah Jazz more difficult.

From Woj’s article, it looks like the Jazz and Knicks had been in discussions and closed the gap on some points of the deal but couldn’t come to an agreement before the Knicks signed Barrett. For some reason, the Knicks made an artificial deadline of Monday to get a deal done before they signed Barrett.

The real question here is does this really matter in terms of a Donovan Mitchell trade? According to Woj, it seems to have been a big part of the most recent negotiations but not the thing that stopped a deal.

The Knicks did include Barrett in trade proposals for Mitchell, sources said, which is why the process to complete the extension lasted several additional weeks. Barrett was a staple of several different trade variations discussed, but hurdles remained Monday about the total of unprotected first-round picks in the deal and the inclusion of Knicks guard Quentin Grimes, sources said.

Nevertheless, the Jazz greatly valued Barrett as part of any Mitchell deal with New York, and a deal without him would require the Knicks to relinquish far more draft assets than they’ve shown a willingness to do, sources said.

Once the Knicks committed to Barrett’s extension, management became resigned to the fact that there’s a much more difficult path to an offseason deal to acquire Mitchell. Nevertheless, neither Utah or New York is ruling out restarting the talks before the start of training camps in late September, sources said.

Barrett apparently made a deal easier but it doesn’t appear it was ever about Barrett, it was always about the unprotected picks.

Like Woj said, Barrett was part of trade discussions but “hurdles remained .. about the total of unprotected first round picks.” If the Knicks want Donovan Mitchell, they’ll have to give the unprotected picks that Ainge is asking for, not RJ Barrett. This whole situation makes it seem like the Knicks are trying to make their fans feel like they are winning negotiations by re-signing Barrett and when they give up picks for Mitchell, they “won” the trade.

From the Jazz’s point of view, Barrett doesn’t really fit the Jazz’s timeline. By the time the Jazz get the players in the draft that will help them compete, it won’t even be during Barret’s new contract. That is if the Jazz are committed to a tank rebuild. And that is what brings us to probably the biggest reveal from Woj’s article, the confirmation that the Jazz are committed to a rebuild.

The Jazz are committed to starting a rebuild after trading All-Star center Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves for five first-round picks in July. Mitchell, 25, is a three-time All-Star and greater New York native who would instantly become the franchise’s best player.

The Knicks have the most picks to give for Mitchell, like we’ve heard ad nauseam, but it doesn’t mean anything if they aren’t willing to give those picks unprotected. The Knicks are starting to look a little pathetic here, if we’re being honest. They don’t seem to want to give the unprotected picks because maybe they don’t believe in their ability to either be a good team, or draw other players in free agency? That’s the only explanation for not wanting to remove protections.

The Knicks are playing a dangerous game here. They signed Jalen Brunson which probably helps them improve from their highly impressive 11th place finish in the East last season to perhaps the 10th or 9th? If Ainge can get 4 unprotected picks from a multi-team trade with something like the Heat and Lakers, especially if it includes future unprotected picks from the Lakers, the Knicks could see their chance at a home-grown star slip away. Then the Knicks will be left with a lot of mid first-round picks and play-in tournaments while Mitchell makes the all-star team with the Heat, a team he has said he’d be interested in playing for.

Congratulations to the Knicks on re-signing RJ Barrett, but we’ll see if it may have cost them an all-star.