Knicks president Leon Rose officially announced the contract extension of RJ Barrett on Friday, calling him a “core piece of our team’s foundation.”
He better be hardcore because the Knicks won’t be getting Donovan Mitchell, who reportedly is heading to the Cavaliers for a package of five first-round picks, Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen and Ochai Agbaji.
Watch Live & Free Coverage of The 2022 NBL1 Championship Season on Kayo Freebies. Join now, no credit card required >
Three of the first-round picks were unprotected — which was the sticking point in negotiations with the Knicks. Utah’s CEO of basketball operations Danny Ainge at first wanted four unprotected first-round picks but settled for three.
“They thought they had Ainge and Utah over the barrel,” one league source said. “They held back on best offers of picks and players and Danny got his three unprotected.”
Mitchell, who removed Utah from his Twitter bio this week, preferred a trade to the Knicks to come back home, but he’s still closer to his Westchester County roots in Ohio than in Utah.
One of Rose’s final offers was two unprotected first-rounders and three conditional picks with Barrett. It’s unknown if Rose made an offer with three unprotected first-round picks in a non-Barrett iteration. Ainge passed but was still very interested in getting Quentin Grimes in the deal. Apparently, Rose didn’t think Ainge really had an offer with three unprotected first-rounders and withheld Grimes from any offers.
Put simply, the Knicks thought they were in a strong position and took a “gamble”, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski revealed on ‘The Woj Pod’.
“I do think New York expected they would circle back,” Wojnarowski said.
“They never got another chance with Utah. Utah did not go back to them on Thursday and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got this offer from Cleveland. Do you want to top it?’ In their mind, when New York walked on Monday, that was it.
“They had a deal with Cleveland that they just did, agreed to it. And New York found out after that Mitchell deal was already agreed to, that he was on his way to Cleveland, and Utah was not circling back with New York to give them a chance to top the deal.”
It also should be noted that all things equal, Ainge likely preferred to trade Mitchell off Broadway and prevent him from playing in the media capital of the world.
The Knicks’ Plan B is building their young core and still being amenable to a big trade with their draft capital. They will have two first-round picks in 2023 and 11 over the next seven years.
The Knicks forfeited their 2022 lottery pick, the 11th slot, this year to open cap space for Jalen Brunson and they could lose another first-rounder for allegedly tampering with him.
The Knicks will be on the lookout for the next disgruntled player who goes on the trading block with Oklahoma City point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander previously mentioned. Ironically, the Knicks passed on him in the 2108 draft, much like they whiffed on Mitchell in 2017. Gilgeous-Alexander could be a better fit with Brunson than Mitchell.
Moments before the Mitchell news broke the Knicks released a statement on Barrett, who has reportedly inked a four-year extension worth up to $120 million ($A177m), to perhaps soften the blow.
“We are thrilled to announce a well-deserved extension for RJ Barrett, a core piece of our team’s foundation,” Rose said.
“At only 22 years old, he has elevated his game each season, solidifying himself as a force on both ends of the court. We believe he will continue to improve because of his passion for the game and dedication to his craft. We want to continue to build our team and culture around players like RJ who possess these values and qualities.”
But not everyone is buying the positive spin, certainly not Knicks megafan and popular sports personality Stephen A. Smith.
“Every single time something goes wrong,” Smith said on Friday.
“I wanted Donovan Mitchell in New York. I shut my mouth. I didn’t say a word because I didn’t want to blow it. I didn’t want to get in the way. … So once again we’re gonna go to another season and the New York Knicks are devoid of a star. They’re somewhere other than in a New York Knicks uniform.
“They make me sick… Nothing ever gets done in New York with the Knicks. Nothing. Nothing. … It just never ends with the Knicks. It just never freakin’ ends.”
Meanwhile, one coaching source told The Post there is scepticism over how good Barrett can actually be.
“The Knicks normally overpay for decent players,” they started.
“Is RJ ever going to be more than a low efficiency, high usage scorer? Maybe. But maybe not. That’s the point. But they think he’s got a lot of room to get better.”
The Knicks starting five is now set to be Brunson, Evan Fournier, Barrett, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson.
The Knicks felt with Mitchell aboard they could be a 47-win team and make a 10-win improvement. But they didn’t want to exhaust their draft capital and prevent themselves from making one more significant move to get them to title contention.
Now their roster will likely make them a contender for the play-in tournament but not much higher than that. Meanwhile, their Eastern Conference rival Cavaliers have done well with GM Koby Altman, New York native, quietly getting the goods.
— with New York Post