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

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

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

Because Mitchell is currently in a Utah Jazz situation that is likely leading to a tear down and rebuild more than seemingly any other franchise in the NBA, conventional wisdom (along with some reporting) has suggested that the team will likely part ways with either him or Rudy Gobert — potentially both — to reshape their roster.

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

But the Knicks are honestly not a team ready for Mitchell. They’d acquire him and do... what? 

This is an Eastern Conference with the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks at the top. It's one where the Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets are possibly an offseason away from joining the tier-one group.

And with the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Charlotte Hornets — all of whom were better than the Knicks last season — expected to build on successes within these last two seasons, acquiring Mitchell wouldn’t elevate the Knicks enough. Unlike the Heat, where Mitchell would serve as a missing piece, the Knicks would be forfeiting much of their young talent and/or draft capital to make such a deal.

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And this is why New York should stay the course by trading up in the draft and grabbing dynamic Purdue guard Jaden Ivey.

At 6-foot-4, 200-pounds, Ivey has often been compared to Ja Morant. It feels like an easy comparison, but even their college careers have some parallels. (Not a ton, but some.) Morant was a starter as a true freshman with the Murray State Racers. While he was clearly good, he hadn’t yet been considered a top-five NBA prospect, which he became throughout his breakout sophomore campaign. Ivey started more than half of his freshman-year games and similarly showed promise, but wasn’t yet the top-five prospect he since grew into coming off this season's strong sophomore season. 

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

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

More similarly, Morant and Ivey made leaps from All-Freshman (or All-Newcomer, in Morant’s case) in their first college go-round to being Consensus All-Americans in their second years.

For the Knicks, here’s why and how you do it, beginning with the latter.

Most mock drafts have had Ivey going No. 4 in recent weeks, including our own at BasketballNews.com. The thinking is that the top three will be Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren in whatever order, with Ivey following up as the best of the next group. So, barring surprise — which always can happen — a team trading for No. 4 should be in a position to snag Ivey.

The Sacramento Kings currently hold No. 4. With De’Aaron Fox already in place and having just traded for Domantas Sabonis (using Tyrese Haliburton), they’re probably closer to “win-now” (at least, in theory). This should make No. 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 more likely to keep their picks by comparison.

The Knicks are currently at No. 11 in this draft lottery, with an additional selection at No. 42 in Round 2. They also hold their own first-round pick in every season going forward and most of their seconds. They also still have a top-10 protected first from the Dallas Mavericks in 2023. (We’re anticipating that will head to New York as the last remnants of the Kristaps Porzingis deadline deal of 2019.)

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

(Additionally, Knick fans, I know you’d probably like it to be No. 11 and Julius Randle, but I question whether a Sabonis-Randle pairing fits. However, I get the idea — you don’t think the Kings aren’t above trying it out either, and I respect that.)

The last time a top-four pick was traded was in 2019 when De'Andre Hunter, picked No. 4 overall, was part of the three-team Anthony Davis deal, which sent Hunter from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Atlanta Hawks. The year before, the Hawks moved from No. 3 to No. 5, additionally acquiring another first in the famous Luka Dončić-Trae Young swap that also landed Reddish in the ATL.

If you’re the Knicks, why do you do it? 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 fancy him as a combo guard, he’d be their most dynamic backcourt player since... damn, is it Stephon Marbury? That far back?

Babcock shared his thoughts on Ivey's fit on the Knicks if they were to try it:

Regarding his potential fit with the Knicks, I think it makes a lot of sense. The Knicks have some young budding players who have shown promise. However, they need more star power, and Jaden Ivey just might be that star in the making that the Knicks need to get over the hump.

Just keep the rebuild going and continue to get better. More importantly, think of the excitement guys like Ivey, Barrett and Toppin could generate?

I’d name other guys on the roster, but you know 85% of the league is TBD right now.

Most of all, listen to Matt if you won’t listen to me!

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