The New York Knicks are reportedly finalizing a four-year contract extension for RJ Barrett that could be worth up to $120 million. In recent reports it has been suggested that the Utah Jazz coveted Barrett in a potential Donovan Mitchell deal. Does that mean Barrett presumably staying put in New York kills the chance of Mitchell joining him?
The Knicks don’t believe so. According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, the Knicks “would not have come to this Barrett decision if they felt it would kill the [Mitchell] trade.”
The Knicks still have as many as eight first-round picks they could offer in a deal for Mitchell: four of their own and four owned via other teams. They have reportedly already offered the Jazz five of those future picks, plus Obi Toppin and Evan Fournier, but again Berman reported that Utah executive Danny Ainge wanted more of those picks (four instead of two) to be unprotected.
Ainge is also reportedly interested in the Lakers‘ 2027 and 2029 first-round picks, as he should be. There’s a pretty high probability the Lakers are a few years away from being pretty bad. That’s why they covet those picks so highly and are not eager to move off them in a potential Russell Westbrook deal. They know they need something to kickstart the post-LeBron era.
This becomes a potential avenue for Mitchell to end up in New York without the Knicks having to give up Barrett or relent on their draft-pick protections, with the Lakers possibly becoming involved in a three- or even four-team deal. Either way, Barrett signing a long-term extension with the Knicks doesn’t appear to have killed the possibility of Mitchell ending up in New York. At least that’s how the Knicks see it.
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It’s a smart move for the Knicks to keep Barrett. Again, they’re already going to have to surrender a ton of future draft capital if they want Mitchell, which significantly hinders their chances of adding another star via trade (especially once OKC and Houston enter the trade fray with intentions of winning). With Mitchell, Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle and Barrett under contract, there’s also no way the Knicks could create enough cap space in the coming summers to add another All-Star on their own.
There’s a slight chance the cap could spike high enough in 2025 after the new TV deal kicks in for the Knicks to have max space at that point, but there are a lot of (unlikely?) variables in that scenario (dump $30M Randle if he opts in; Mitchell and Brunson, both of whom would be on potential expiring contracts by that point, exercise player options rather than pursue higher max contracts in a post-spike environment), and that’s also three summers away.
For all intents and purposes, if you’re planning three years out in today’s NBA, no less on the off chance that an unlikely scenario plays out exactly as you would need it to, you’re not really planning. You’re praying.
So in practical terms, adding another star via cap space in addition to trading for Mitchell isn’t going to happen. So if you want that third guy next to Mitchell and Brunson, unless you think Randle has it in him, that leaves Barrett’s potential All-Star development as New York’s swing factor in developing a true Big 3.