Why Knicks trading for Jaden Ivey, not Donovan Mitchell, makes sense

The New York Knicks are one of the main teams linked with a potential Donovan Mitchell blockbuster trade this summer.

With Mitchell currently in a Utah jazz situation likely leading to demolition and rebuilding more than seemingly any other franchise in the NBA, conventional wisdom (along with some reports) has suggested that the team is likely to be split from either him or Rudy Gobert – possibly both – to reshape their roster.

The Knicks have several ties to Mitchell. He is from Elmsford, New York, a six-minute drive from the Knicks training center in Westchester. His father works for the New York Mets organization. Both are fans of a number of New York sports teams, including the Mets and Rangers. that Mitchell saw up close in this year’s playoffs. Mitchell is a CAA client, and the agency has organizational fingerprints all over the Knicks. And while he hasn’t publicly solicited a trade, the Knicks are Reportedly on his list if he were to do so.

But the Knicks honestly aren’t a team that’s ready for Mitchell. They would grab him and do… what?

This is an Eastern Conference with the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, and Milwaukee Bucks at the helm. It’s one where the Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets may be an offseason away from joining the Tier One group.

And since the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Charlotte Hornets — all of whom outperformed the Knicks last season — were expected to build on the successes of the past two seasons, Mitchell’s acquisition wouldn’t boost the Knicks enough. Unlike the Heat, where Mitchell would serve as a missing piece, the Knicks would forfeit much of their young talent and/or capital to close such a deal.

And for that reason, New York should stay the course by trading on the draft and snapping up dynamic Purdue guard Jaden Ivey.

At 6ft 4 and 200lbs, Ivey was often compared to Ja Morant. It feels like a simple comparison, but even her college career has some parallels. (Not a ton, but some.) Morant was a true freshman with Murray State Racers. While he was clearly good, he wasn’t yet considered a top-five prospect in the NBA, which he became during his second breakthrough campaign. Ivey started more than half of his first-year games and showed similar promise but was not yet the top-five contender he has since grown into after a strong second season this season.

BasketballNews.com Sr. NBA Draft Analyst Matt Babcock notes that while Ivey is still in development, his cap rivals anyone in the 2022 NBA Draft class:

I don’t think Jaden Ivey is a finished product as he still has room to improve in terms of his ball skills, feel and consistency on outside shooting. However, it’s arguable that he has as much star potential as, if not more than, any other prospect in this year’s draft. Ivey’s athleticism, explosiveness and ability to get to the edge and rise above the ball with the ball in hand have drawn comparisons to star players like young Russell Westbrook and Ja Morant.

Similarly, Morant and Ivey made jumps from All-Freshman (or All-Newcomer in Morant’s case) in their freshman round of college to Consensus All-Americans in their sophomore years.

For the Knicks, here’s why and how they do it, starting with the latter.

Most mock drafts have ranked Ivey #4 in the past few weeks, including our own on BasketballNews.com. The thinking is that the top three will be Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren in any order, with Ivey following the next group as the best. Barring surprises – which can always happen – a team acting for No. 4 should be able to snap up Ivey.

The Sacramento Kings currently hold No. 4. With De’Aaron Fox already in place and just traded to Domantas Sabonis (using Tyrese Haliburton), they’re probably closer to “winning now” (at least in theory). This should make #4 available. The current 1-to-3 slots are occupied by the Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets, all of whom are rebuilding and tending to keep their selections by comparison.

The Knicks are currently ranked 11th in this draft lottery, with an additional pick at No. 42 in Round 2. They also have their own first-round pick in each future season and most of their seconds. They also have another top-10 protected first from the Dallas Mavericks in 2023. (We’re assuming they’ll be heading to New York as the last remnants of Kristaps Porzingis’ 2019 Deadline deal.)

So it’s very easy for the Knicks to combine another first with their No. 11 pick to throw at the Kings in hopes of that hypothetical coming together. If you’re Sacramento, maybe a No. 11 and an unprotected or barely protected first-rounder from 2024 will suffice. If not, the Knicks still have a collection of young players to offer, be it Quentin Grimes, Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, or Cam Reddish Miles McBride or a combination of these names. #11 and Quickley doesn’t really sound crazy as a starting point.

(Also, Knick fans, I know you’d probably like No. 11 and Julius Randle, but I’m wondering if a Sabonis-Randle pairing would fit. However, I get the idea — you don’t think the Kings are ‘ It also doesn’t suggest trying, and I respect that.)

The last time a top 4 pick was traded was in 2019 when De’Andre Hunter, picked 4th overall, was part of the three-team Anthony Davis deal that took Hunter from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Atlanta Hawks sent. The year before, the Hawks moved up from 3rd to 5th and also earned another first in the famous Luka Dončić-Trae Young swap that also landed Reddish in the ATL.

If you’re the Knicks, why are you doing it? It’s simple – continuing to rebuild on the fly is the way to go.

And overnight, Ivey gives the Knicks their best point guard since Raymond Felton. If you see him as a combo guard, he’d be your most dynamic backcourt since… damn, right?
Stephen Marbury? that far back?

Babcock shared his thoughts on Ivey’s fit at the Knicks if they tried:

In terms of his potential match with the Knicks, I think that makes a lot of sense. The Knicks have some young prospects who have shown promise. They need more star power, however, and Jaden Ivey could be the nascent star the Knicks need to get over the hump.

Just keep making the rebuild and keep getting better. Above all, do you think of the excitement that guys like Ivey, Barrett and Toppin could generate?

I would name other guys on the list but you know 85% of the league is TBD right now.

Above all, listen to Matt if you don’t listen to me!

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