Knicks blockbuster trade signals to Cavaliers they are coming for Mitchell

Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers and Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks
Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers and Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks / Mike Stobe/GettyImages

The Donovan Mitchell trade market is hardly a secret. While there will be under-the-radar suitors to be discussed if the Cleveland Cavaliers ever start listening to offers, there are three teams everyone expects to be involved: the Miami Heat, the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks.

The Knicks have been involved with Mitchell for years now. The All-NBA guard grew up in the greater New York area and was a Knicks fan as a kid; the Knicks benefit from their market in a number of ways, and with Mitchell they just so happen to be his hometown team.

When the Utah Jazz were shopping Mitchell last year, the Knicks were assumed to be the favorites to land him. The Cavaliers swept in and won the bidding, but it's been expected that the Knicks would make their move eventually to add the explosive guard, whether that was in free agency or on the trade market.

The situation has changed now for the Knicks, who just pulled off a blockbuster deal to land Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby. New York sent RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley and Detroit's 2024 second-round pick for Anunoby, Malachi Flynn and Precious Achiuwa.

Anunoby will be up for a new contract, be it via an extension on June 30 or after hitting free agency on July 1; his salary on top of their current cap sheet will make it very difficult to make a move for Mitchell in 2025. Given that they just made a big trade, they are unlikely to be playing a long-game to clear salary for the possibility of Mitchell in 18 months.

Are the Knicks out of the Donovan Mitchell sweepstakes?

What's interesting is that the Knicks made their big swing for Anunoby and are still a suitor for a Donovan Mitchell trade. The Knicks traded two of their four highest-usage players for Anunoby, who is more of a play finisher than a play creator. He will likely expect a larger role on the Knicks, but his usage rate won't ascend much, and he won't be driving the offense.

Anunoby is an excellent fit, addressing a need as both a forward with size and as an elite perimeter defender to take on the larger wings and forwards in the NBA. With Julius Randle an floor-raising player rather than a ceiling-raising one, the Knicks need a second shot creator alongside Brunson who they can trust in the playoffs.

That could be a moot point if they had drained their assets to trade for Anunoby, but that's actually not what happened. In fact, the Knicks traded for Anunoby without giving up a single first-round picks. Immanuel Quickley, RJ Barrett and a second encompass the entire trade amount for OG.

That leaves the Knicks with their entire set of first-round picks as well as protected firsts from Dallas, Detroit, Washington and Milwaukee. They can trade eight picks and three swaps to wade into a trade conversation for any player.

The Knicks also retained Evan Fournier in the deal, and the French wing has a team option for next season, making him functionally an expiring contract. He and Quentin Grimes can form the foundation of any trade offer for another player, including Donovan Mitchell.

Obviously, the Cleveland Cavaliers have to play ball for a Donovan Mitchell trade to be on the table. If they refuse to take calls or at least pull the trigger, there is nothing the Knicks can do about it, at least not directly. Cleveland has communicated they don't want to trade Mitchell, and unless and until they change that stance, the Knicks and all other teams are out of luck.

Yet for now, any increased interest only dials up the leverage for the Cavaliers. The more teams who are interested and the more assets made available in a Mitchell trade, the better return they can get for him. That external leverage should only drive up the price further.

The New York Knicks have been connected to Donovan Mitchell for a long time, and they are still lurking. The trade for OG Anunoby only makes it more likely that they will go all-in for Mitchell. Is that enough to make the Cavaliers interested?

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