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

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

It always made the idea that the Utah Jazz could keep Donovan Mitchell after dealing Rudy Gobert somewhat laughable. Nothing about Ainge suggests he would be interested in chasing the play-in tournament for a year or two before Mitchell himself fights his way to a contender of his choosing. Ainge is many things. Delirium is not one of them. Once it became clear that the Jazz in its previous build was never going to win a championship, a full-scale restart involving the trades of Mitchell and Gobert felt inevitable.

So as we work out possible Mitchell transactions in light of Adrian Wojnarowski’s proposals All-Star guard availability report, we have to do it through the prism of Ainge’s ambitions. He’s not a man known for his half measures. He won’t want to make a deal that keeps the Jazz somewhat competitive. The name of the game here is choice and upside down. In a perfect world, Utah will land assets that will pay off down the line without threatening its immediate efforts to tank. Here are the five teams best positioned to offer such a package to the Jazz.

Surely you have already heard of connections. Mitchell is represented by CAA. Knicks president Leon Rose once ran CAA’s basketball operations. Mitchell grew up in neighboring Connecticut. His father worked for the New York Mets. The interest here is almost certainly mutual. The question is the price.

The Knicks can send the Jazz as much draft capital as anyone. They have eight tradeable first-round picks, including four of their own. In Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin and Quentin Grimes, they have a cadre of interesting youngsters for Utah to try their luck on. But the line in the sand here is likely former No. 3 overall pick RJ Barrett. After all, if the Knicks trade everything 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.

Could Barrett be a deciding factor for Utah? Probably not, especially in light of the limitations faced by the other contenders here. If the Knicks put seven or eight first rounds on the table, no one else will do better. Right now they’re in the driver’s seat with or without Barrett, and that probably suits Utah just fine. He’s too good to tank properly anyway.

Miami’s limited project capital will make a Mitchell trade difficult. The Heat have no outside first-round picks and they owe one of theirs in 2025 to the Oklahoma City Thunder. As it stands, they can send the Jazz two first-round picks, three trades and 2022 first-round selection Nikola Jovic. If they get a little creative with the language of picks, they could send a third to the Jazz, but that strategy is not without its risks. The protections on the pick they owe the Thunder could delay his transport until 2026, and if so, the Heat can’t legally trade their 2028 pick until after, per a few notable rules of the ABC.

The Stepien Rule prevents teams from being without a first-round pick in consecutive drafts. The “seven-year rule” prevents teams from trading picks longer than seven years. In other words: The Heat could offer their 2023, 2027 and 2029 picks to Mitchell on the condition that their 2025 pick goes to the Thunder, but if that lottery-protected Thunder pick isn’t passed on in 2025, the 2027 picks would be pushed back to 2028 and 2029 picks would have to be converted to seconds because 2030 is over seven years away.

Working in favor of Miami, however, is Ainge’s longstanding interest in Herro. He was reportedly very interested in adding the former Kentucky star with the No. 14 pick in the 2019 draft, but Miami snatched him a spot early. If Ainge sees Herro as the cornerstone of a post-Mitchell roster, he’ll consider Miami’s offer.

A quick note worth mentioning: While Mitchell and Bam Adebayo are both on designated rookie extensions, they can legally play on the same team because Miami drafted Adebayo. Mitchell, however, cannot play on the same team as Ben Simmons, who also has a designated rookie contract but was traded to Brooklyn. Teams may have two designated Rookie players provided that at least one of them has been drafted by the team in question. Speaking of Brooklyn…

As we discussed, both Simmons and Mitchell can’t play for the Nets next season. So…what if Simmons was on another team? Here’s the scenario: The Nets trade Kevin Durant for a team that can provide them with both draft picks and top veterans (say the Toronto Raptors because of their endless supply of wings). They then flip and flip Simmons elsewhere for draft picks and, as expected, trade Kyrie Irving to the Lakers for even more draft capital. Suddenly, between three trades, the once barren Nets have racked up enough picks to look to Utah for Mitchell, and thanks to Durant, have also racked up enough supporting talent around Mitchell to wrestle credibly into the fairly future. close (say a combination of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr. and Precious Achiuwa).

It’s not an immediate competitor, but it’s not too shabby either, is it? It’s a start, at least, a foundation built on a 25-year-old All-Star who seems to want to be in their city and a supporting cast transplanted from the NBA’s best developmental infrastructure. Considering Brooklyn’s limited options at the moment, it could probably do a lot worse than starting over with Mitchell.

The real block here is the chord mechanics. There are so many moving parts to consider. Is there a suitor willing to give up multiple early rounds for Simmons? Minnesota was the most obvious, but they gave it their all for Gobert. Maybe Cleveland? And would Durant accept a trade to any destination outside of his favorite Phoenix or Miami? Will the Lakers cough up a second first-rounder for Irving? So many things have to happen for Brooklyn to be viable. The path is there if the Nets want to take it, but it’s a treacherous path.

Let’s say Toronto isn’t particularly keen on trading for a 34-year-old Durant. Could Mitchell be a viable alternative? Toronto has so many defensive wings that protecting him at this end of the field seems more than doable. His head-to-head tally is exactly what they’ve been missing since Kawhi Leonard left, and his youth and remaining three years in control of the team would give them a lead to build around him.

But the fundamental question here is the same as the one in 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 at present, and unlike Durant, he’s probably going to stay that way for a while. The Raptors might give up some advantages by taking the sure thing, but they’re shrugging off most of the risk of stagnating Barnes’ development. If he becomes 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 scares Toronto out of the running. Unless Mitchell expresses meaningful interest in joining the Raptors, Barnes is just too valuable to hope that Mitchell is thrilled to be a Raptor and can lead you to a championship. Still, if they were to give up Barnes for anything, a 25-year-old All-Star would likely be among their top picks.

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 tradeable first-round picks, and two of those could be valuable, high-potential Lakers picks. If New Orleans was primarily concerned with maximizing their title window, flipping McCollum for some assets and then going all-in with Mitchell would make a lot of sense.

But basketball is not played on paper. Teams simply don’t trade for established stars only to intentionally replace them six months later. McCollum was a key voice in the locker room last season. They’re just not going to break up what was a feel-good team last season to chase down a borderline All-NBA player who would only represent a modest improvement over their starter in his position. That’s not how basketball tends to work. If that were the case, the Pelicans would probably be courting Durant a little more aggressively right now.

So no, the Pelicans are probably not on Mitchell. They happen to be one of the few teams that have what it takes to get it while still being long-term contenders. Eventually, the Pelicans will likely push their chips on a third star next to Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. It probably won’t be Mitchell.

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