Signing RJ Barrett was a comfort for Knicks Donovan Mitchell

The Knicks organization is “shocked and disappointed” that Donovan Mitchell could not be acquired and he will be transferred to Eastern Conference rivals Cavaliers.

Cleveland form the backcourt of Darius Garland and Mitchell and are clearly superior to the Knicks on paper.

Before Jazz president Danny Ainge fell in love with the Cavaliers’ package, which included three unprotected first-round picks, there are signs the Knicks didn’t get the chance to make the best offer.

It’s no coincidence that the Knicks officially announced a contract extension with RJ Barrett just before ESPN broke the story of Mitchell’s move to Cleveland.

In fact, NBA sources say the Knicks’ preference is not to sign Barrett to a hefty contract extension at this point, but rather to wait until at least the mid-October deadline for either training camp or a restricted free trial on July 1. I was hoping to meet him at…Agency.

Barrett’s drafting predated the days of Rose and senior executive William Wesley. His GM of the Knicks, Scott Perry, named Barrett for his 2019 season, but it was still not unanimous.

RJ Barrett New York Knicks #9
The Knicks announced an extension for RJ Barrett after losing to Donovan Mitchell.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“They don’t want to pay RJ right now. They like RJ, but he’s not on their side,” an NBA source said. A few weeks ago, if they got Donovan without Barrett, they weren’t going to pay RJ now.

Once wind of the Knicks had the Cavaliers leading Mitchell, they moved toward an agreement with Barrett, according to the source.

“They had to do something,” said the source.

The Knicks still thought they could make a deal without Barrett and offer better draft capital, but by then Ainge’s negotiations with the Cavaliers had accelerated, giving the Knicks control over their own destiny. I can no longer.

The Knicks initially refused to give up three unprotected first-round picks if Barrett was under contract, but Rose proved to be a decision he had to accept.

It’s unclear whether any deal other than Barrett offered three unprotected first-round picks. ESPN reported that the Knicks’ best offers were his two unprotected picks and his third pick in Top 4 protection.

Knicks chief strategist Brock Aller previously worked as a capologist for the Cavaliers and is friends with owner Dan Gilbert, so perhaps the Knicks knew about the offers they were facing. If they didn’t, it was Knicks’ fault.

Ainge ended up with three Cavaliers first-round picks, two pick swaps, Collin Sexton, out of knee surgery, disappointing lottery pick Lauri Markkanen, and a 2022 first-round pick. It was decided to accept Gwon Ochai Agbaji.

Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz watches
Donovan Mitchell is now with the Cavaliers and the Knicks have to figure out where to go next.
Getty Images

There was a feeling of all being equal in the league, and Ainge preferred to keep Mitchell away from Broadway. It was looming large. (Mitchell sounded excited on social media to join Garland in the backcourt).

“Danny thinks that if he gives him to New York, he wants to take them away. He knew how much they wanted him.”

Whatever the details of why the Mitchell trade fell through, some league officials feel the Knicks missed a golden opportunity to acquire a homegrown star who wants to play in New York. do not visit

“They didn’t catch him,” said one NBA staffer.

In college, Barrett was nicknamed “Maple Mamba,” but after Kobe Bryant’s death, he stopped accepting the nickname. After his $120 million contract extension for four years, including incentives, his nickname is “The Franchise.”

Rose’s statement called him “the core of our team’s foundation.”

“Thanks to his passion for the game and dedication to his craft, we believe he will continue to improve,” Rose added.

However, one team executive rated him “the third best player on a competing team”, comparing him to Tobias Harris.

“RJ Barrett is an accomplished player, lacking the elite athleticism and physical aspects of a franchise player, but his strong points are competitiveness, scoring ability and toughness,” the executive said. “But he needs a better offhand, the ability to work off the ball and consistency.”

The Knicks still have 11 first-round picks over the next seven years, but that number could drop once the NBA completes its investigation into alleged manipulation of Jalen Brunson.


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