On paper, it’s a no-brainer.
Donovan Mitchell is a three-time All-Star. He’s a difference maker at just 25 years old. A New Yorker who understands the pressures of playing for the Knicks, he is represented by CAA, the agency that Knicks President Leon Rose once ran.
But this is not a free agency. That’s not Jalen Brunson. Landing Mitchell, which is rumored to be available through the Rebuild Jazz trade, would require a long move. That could mean franchise building block RJ Barrett and other young players. It would likely mean multiple first-round draft picks.
As much as Rose and the Knicks want Mitchell, the price could be exorbitant. Recall that the Jazz recently received four first-round picks (three unprotected) and a pick swap from the Timberwolves for Rudy Gobert, a solid player but not as valued as Mitchell. They also landed high-profile players Patrick Beverly, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt, along with this year’s 20th overall pick, center Walker Kessler, in the blockbuster deal.
“In the first two years, it could benefit from that [the Knicks]. But it could backfire later,” an NBA scout told The Post on condition of anonymity. “I like Mitchell but he didn’t make it out of the second round and he had two really, really good teams in Utah.
“He’s a very good player. I don’t think he’s number 1 on a championship team. At his size, I don’t think he’ll lift the Knicks into a championship stratosphere. They’ll probably be a surefire playoff team, but I don’t think they’re necessarily going to be promoted to the upper league of the Eastern Conference.”
Despite this, Mitchell is a enduring All-Star, averaging 23.9 points and 4.5 assists during his five-year career with Jazz. His presence alone would elevate the Knicks roster and create a potentially dynamic backcourt alongside Brunson.
If only Mitchell were 22-year-old Barrett to become a Knick, the scout says it would be an easy decision. But that’s not the reality. Barrett doesn’t quite have that kind of cachet just yet. But he’s improving, he’s developing, and he’s playing an important position (the wings) in today’s NBA.
“I personally wouldn’t [include Barrett], just because I think 6-6 wings are harder to come by than 6-foot-1 goalscorers,” the scout said, noting Mitchell’s defensive shortcomings. “The wing position is more valuable than the shooting guard position. … In a year or two, I envision Barrett being an all-star.
“He’s more versatile on both sides, but Mitchell is definitely a better offensive player.”
A league source agreed with the scout, wondering how much better Mitchell would land the Knicks if it required trading Barrett in addition to other assets. He wasn’t sure a Mitchell and Brunson backcourt would work because they’re both undersized guards who could fight on the defensive end, and he believes Barrett is a future All-Star.
“There’s no reason to burden the future with a two-year rebuild,” the league source said. “You are going in the right direction. They should stay the course and not become the Nets.”
It remains to be seen what the Knicks would need to acquire Mitchell. SNY.tv reported that the Knicks were opposed to including Barrett in any deal prior to news that Mitchell was up for the right offer. The Jazz would also have to be willing to pay Barrett, who is now eligible for a rookie max extension that could be up to five years for $185 million.
Mitchell’s father, Donovan Sr., told the Post he has yet to speak to his son about his precarious situation in Utah, although he is on his way home. When asked if it would be tempting to come home to play, Donovan Sr. said, “I know he just loves to play ball.” That could happen at home — but only if the Knicks are ready, hard to swallow and live up to the demands of jazz. Unlike Brunson, this next acquisition won’t be nearly as easy. There are positives and negatives.