The New York Knicks were long thought to be the front-runners for Donovan Mitchell before the star guard was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday for, as reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji, Collin Sexton, three unprotected first-round picks (2023, 2025 and 2027) and two pick swaps (2026, 2028).
And hubris may have been the difference between the Knicks landing Mitchell and seeing the Utah Jazz deal him to Cleveland instead.
"They thought they had [Jazz CEO of basketball operations and alternate governor Danny Ainge] and Utah over the barrel," a league source told Marc Berman of the New York Post regarding the Knicks' approach to trade talks. "They held back on best offers of picks and players and Danny got his three unprotected."
Per that report, the last offer the Knicks made to the Jazz was "two unprotected first-rounders and three conditional picks with [RJ] Barrett. Ainge passed but was still very interested in getting Quentin Grimes in the deal."
Once the Knicks signed Barrett to a four-year extension worth up to $120 million, which included a poison-pill provision that would have made including him in the deal very complicated from a salary-matching perspective, however, any negotiations became all the more complicated.
That opened the door for the Cavaliers to pounce, and yet again the Knicks are left searching for the type of true headlining star they've lacked since the Carmelo Anthony days.
Granted, the Knicks still have a solid core group of Barrett, Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson to go along with intriguing young players such as Grimes, Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley. They are also loaded with future draft picks, so if another star becomes available on the trade market, they'll have the ammunition to make a move.
But for Knicks fans, missing out on Mitchell is going to feel like another blown opportunity from an organization that has struggled to consistently field a winner. As Berman noted, Mitchell "preferred a Knicks trade to come back home, but he's still closer to the East Coast."
So the Knicks had the trade capital to land a hometown star, one who reportedly would have been happy playing for them, and didn't pull the trigger. That's going to be a tough sell for the Madison Square Garden fanbase desperate to see their Knicks return to relevance.