Donovan Mitchell trade rumours: Knicks, Heat, Nets among possible destinations for Jazz All-Star guard


Danny Ainge is a man of extremes. Either he goes all in to win a championship — like he was when he traded all the youth of the Boston Celtics for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the summer of 2007 — or he’s out all the way. When it became clear that the Celtics were no longer a viable championship contender, he traded Garnett and Paul Pierce for a whole future in one fell swoop.

That always made the idea that the Utah Jazz might keep Donovan Mitchell somewhat laughable after treating Rudy Gobert. Nothing about Ainge suggests he would be interested in chasing the play-in tournament for a year or two before Mitchell himself eventually forced his way into a contender of his own choice. Ainge is many things. Madness is not one of them. Once it became clear that the Jazz in their previous build would never win a championship, a full reboot with trades from both Mitchell and Gobert felt inevitable.

So as we construct potential Mitchell deals in light of Adrian Wojnarowski’s reporting on the availability of the All-Star Guard, we must do this through the lens of Ainge’s ambitions. This is not a man known for half measures. He won’t want to make a deal that keeps the Jazz somewhat competitive. The name of the game here is picks and upside. In a perfect world, Utah will land assets that will pay for themselves down the line without compromising immediate refueling efforts. These are the five teams best positioned to give the Jazz such a package.

You’ve probably heard of the connections. Mitchell is represented by CAA. Knicks President Leon Rose once headed CAA’s basketball operations. Mitchell grew up in nearby Connecticut. His father worked for the New York Mets. The interest here is almost certainly mutual. The question is price.

The Knicks can send the Jazz as much pulling capital as anyone else. They have eight tradable first-round picks, including four of their own. With Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin and Quentin Grimes they have some interesting youngsters for Utah to take a shot at. But the line in the sand here is probably former No. 3 overall pick RJ Barrett. After all, if the Knicks trade everything in for Mitchell, they have little room for improvement. Pairing Mitchell (25) with Barrett (22) and Jalen Brunson (25) would give New York three young stallions to grow around.

Would Barrett be a deal breaker for Utah? Probably not, especially in light of the constraints that other suitors face here. If the Knicks put seven or eight first-rounders on the table, no one else will top that. Right now they’re at the wheel, with or without Barrett, and that probably suits Utah just fine. He’s too good to refuel anyway.

Miami’s limited draw capital will make a Mitchell trade difficult. The Heat has no outside first-round picks and they owe one to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2025. As it stands, they could send the Jazz two first round picks, three swaps and 2022 first round pick Nikola Jovic. If they get a little creative in the language of the picks, they can send the Jazz a third, but that strategy is not without risks. The choice protection they owe the Thunder could delay its transfer until 2026, and if it does, the Heat can only legally trade their pick for 2028 after that in accordance with a few notable CBA rules.

The Stepien rule prevents teams in consecutive checkers from having no choice from the first round. The “Seven Year Rule” prevents teams from being in the business for more than seven years. In other words, The Heat could offer their 2023, 2027 and 2029 picks to Mitchell, provided their 2025 pick goes to the Thunder, but if that lottery-protected Thunder pick doesn’t carry over in 2025, the 2027 choice are pushed back to 2028 and the choice for 2029 should be converted to seconds because 2030 is more than seven years away.

But working in Miami’s favor is Ainge’s long-standing interest in Herro. He was reportedly quite interested in adding the former Kentucky star with the No. 14 pick in the 2019 Draft, but Miami previously grabbed him. If Ainge sees Herro as a cornerstone for a post-Mitchell roster, he will consider Miami’s offer.

A quick note worth noting: Although Mitchell and Bam Adebayo are both on Designated Rookie Extensions, they can legally play on the same team because Miami drafted Adebayo. However, Mitchell cannot play on the same team as Ben Simmons, who is also on a Designated Rookie deal but traded to Brooklyn. Teams can have two Designated Rookie players, provided that at least one of them has been drafted by that team. Speaking of Brooklyn…

As we discussed, Simmons and Mitchell can’t both play for the Nets next season. So… what if Simmons was on a different team? Here’s the scenario: The Nets trade Kevin Durant for a team that can provide them with both draft picks and high-level veterans (say, the Toronto Raptors for their endless supply of wings). Then they turn and turn Simmons elsewhere for draft picks, and as expected they trade Kyrie Irving for the Lakers for even more draft capital. Suddenly, between three trades, the once barren Nets have amassed enough picks to go to Utah for Mitchell, and through Durant, they’ve also amassed enough supporting talent around Mitchell to credibly compete in the somewhat near future (say a combination by Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, O.G. Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr. and Precious Achiuwa).

It’s not exactly a contender, but it’s not too shabby either, is it? It’s a start, anyway, a foundation built on a 25-year-old All-Star seemingly wanting to be in their city and a supporting cast transplanted from the NBA’s best development infrastructure. Given Brooklyn’s limited options right now, it could probably be a lot worse than starting over with Mitchell.

The real issue here is the mechanics of the deal. There are so many moving parts to consider. Is there a suitor willing to hand in multiple first-rounders for Simmons? Minnesota was the obvious choice, but it just gave everything away for Gobert. Cleveland maybe? And would Durant accept an exchange to a destination other than his favorite Phoenix or Miami? Will the Lakers cough up a second first-rounder for Irving? So many things need to happen to make Brooklyn viable. The path is there if the Nets want to take it, but it’s a treacherous one.

Let’s just say Toronto isn’t particularly keen on trading for a 34-year-old Durant. Could Mitchell be a viable alternative? Toronto has such a tie with defensive wings that it seems more than doable to protect him at that end of the floor. His one-to-one scoring is just what they’ve been missing since Kawhi Leonard left, and his youth and three years of team control left would give them a runway to build around him.

But the fundamental question here is the same as the one for Toronto regarding Durant: will the Raptors offer Scottie Barnes? The answer is probably no. Barnes is a possible future star. But Mitchell is a star straight away, and unlike Durant, he will probably stay that way for a long time to come. The Raptors might lose some edge by being sure, but they lose most of the risk of Barnes’ development stalling. If he grows into a stable All-Star like Mitchell, his growth will be considered a success.

The Raptors traded for a star who didn’t want to be in Toronto once before. Losing Leonard probably puts Toronto out of the race. Unless Mitchell shows great interest in joining the Raptors, Barnes is just too valuable to hope Mitchell is excited about being a Raptor and can lead you to a championship. But if they gave up Barnes for anything, a 25-year-old All-Star would probably be one of their first choices.

This is one of those ideas that makes more sense on paper than in reality. Mitchell is better than CJ McCollum. He is also half a decade younger. New Orleans has up to six tradable first-round picks, and two of those can be high-value, high-value Lakers picks. If New Orleans was primarily concerned about maximizing the title window, it would make sense to flip McCollum for some assets and then go all in on Mitchell.

But basketball is not played on paper. Teams simply don’t trade for established stars to intentionally replace them six months later. McCollum was an essential voice in the locker room last season. They just don’t plan on splitting up a feel-good team last season to chase a borderline All-NBA player who would be only a modest upgrade from their incumbent position. That’s not how basketball usually works. If so, the pelicans would probably court Durant a little more aggressively now.

So no, the pelicans are probably not behind Mitchell. They happen to be one of the few teams with the trump cards to get his hands on him while remaining contenders in the long run. Ultimately, the Pelicans will likely push their chips in on a third star alongside Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. It probably won’t be Mitchell.

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