How six teams could trade for Mitchell, and what NYK can do to beat them (2022)

There is a phenomenon that has overcome the NBA over the past few seasons. Teams are trading first-round picks and protecting them three, four and sometimes five years into the future.

It’s yet another reason (along with the dizzying asking price, the personalities involved and the mass inflation in the marketplace) that the Utah Jazz have yet to lock in a Donovan Mitchell trade.

When a team deals a first-rounder and protects it for years, it hampers the ability to trade down-the-line picks. For example, the Washington Wizards have a 2023 first-round selection going to the New York Knicks that’s top-14 protected in ‘23, top-12 protected in ‘24, top-10 protected in ‘25 and top-eight protected in ‘26. Because teams can’t trade away first-rounders in consecutive seasons, the next first-round pick the Wizards can flip is their 2028 one. And because teams also aren’t allowed to deal first-rounders more than seven drafts into the future, Washington can trade only one first-round pick.

The Wizards have reportedly expressed interest in Mitchell. Yet, one first-rounder is about half-a-dozen short of what the Jazz want in return.

The Knicks are one team that’s been linked to Mitchell, but there are more. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported six organizations not located in New York — the Non-Knicks Six — that have expressed interest in the three-time All-Star: the Wizards, Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, Charlotte Hornets, Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks. Many of those organizations are dealing with a similar pick-stripped situation as the Wizards are, either because they have dealt too many away or because they have one out the door but it’s protected for years.

The Jazz can ask for an endless string of first-rounders all they want, but a team can offer only what it has.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve written or said or thought some variation of the following line countless times: the Knicks’ B-level offer is better than most of the other suitors’ A-level offers. But how true is that? Which of the Non-Knicks Six can come close to the package New York could cobble together?

The Jazz want five or six or seven first-round picks, as well as young players. The Knicks own all of their firsts as well as four from other teams: the Wizards’ in 2023, the Detroit Pistons’ in ‘23, the Dallas Mavericks’ in ‘23 and the Milwaukee Bucks’ in ‘25. All of those are protected. They can deal up to eight first-rounders, including up to four unprotected ones. They could add at least three first-round swaps. They have attractive up-and-comers, including RJ Barrett (who we should assume would not be part of a hypothetical deal), Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin.

Offering, say, five first-rounders, some of them protected, along with one young player wouldn’t come close to meeting the Jazz’s asking price. But at the same time, some teams in the running couldn’t even beat that.

And thus, we have a stalemate.

For now, the Knicks know no one is coming close to them. And the Jazz want more for Mitchell than they received in that gargantuan return for Rudy Gobert.

So, let’s perform an exercise to put all of this into better context …

Here is a dive into the greatest possible offers the Non-Knicks Six could make for Mitchell — the all-in, “we must land this guy” pitches — along with what the Knicks could trade to top them:

Wizards’ all-in package

Kyle Kuzma

Rui Hachimura

Deni Avdija

Johnny Davis

Corey Kispert

2027 first-round swap (unprotected)

2028 first-round pick (unprotected)

2029 first-round swap (unprotected)

Analysis: The Wizards are capped out through 2025, which means their best chance to add a big name is via a trade. They’d have to play without a conventional point guard in their starting lineup if they pulled this off; Bradley Beal and Mitchell would co-run the offense.

Hachimura doesn’t fit the profile of what the Jazz would reportedly prefer. They want picks and controllable, young players. Hachimura is extension-eligible right now and can become a free agent next summer. In a year, he’ll make market value.

Davis is fresh off becoming the No. 10 pick, but that was in a weak draft. He struggled at summer league. Avdija looks like he could have big-time defensive potential, but the offense hasn’t come yet. Kispert was much better than the overall numbers showed as a rookie. His jumper caught fire in the second half of the season, but he still projects as a helpful, winning role player — not necessarily someone who would be the key piece in a trade for a three-time All-Star.

Kuzma is a free agent after this season, but Utah could try to flip him for a pick or young player.

Meanwhile, because the Wizards have that protected 2023 pick going to the Knicks, they can include only one first-round pick in this trade.

They could open up two more first-rounders to trade if they hit up the Knicks and gave them an asset to unprotect the 2023 first that New York owns, but that’s a risky game to play. Washington finished 12th in the Eastern Conference last season. This deal would take a chunk out of its rotation. What if it misses the playoffs again and is giving up a lottery pick? Also, if the Knicks feel like they’re the favorites for Mitchell, would they want to help another suitor for him improve their offer?

What the Knicks could offer to beat it: Including three of their unprotected first-round picks and two from other teams, as well as just one prospect, should top this offer, and it would still leave the Knicks with a full rotation as well as two other teams’ first-rounders and an extra one of their own. As with many of these offers, the Knicks could rotate another player from the young core into the package to save a draft pick.

Heat’s all-in package

Duncan Robinson

Tyler Herro

Nikola Jovic

2023 first-round pick (unprotected)

2027 first-round swap (unprotected)

2028 first-round pick (unprotected)

2029 first-round swap (unprotected)

Analysis: Herro is the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year, but conceptually, he presents a more extreme version of the same predicament Hachimura would. He is entering his fourth season, which means he’s extension-eligible, as well. And unlike Hachimura, Herro will command a max.

Does Utah want to hand out such an expensive contract before its rebuild even begins? For what it’s worth, the Jazz would ask the same question about Barrett while negotiating with the Knicks. All things being equal, second- or third-year players are more worthwhile to them than fourth-year ones.

Robinson would be in the trade only for salary-matching purposes. Yes, the point of this exercise is to present the greatest all-in package a team can put out there, but we have to be somewhat realistic. Miami is not including Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo, and I don’t see the Jazz wanting Kyle Lowry’s $58 million remaining over the next couple of seasons.

Ultimately, it will come down to the picks, and as of now, Miami can’t offer many of those. They could add a 2024 first-round swap to this package, but that would be extremely unlikely to matter, considering the Heat will be competitive and the Jazz will be rebuilding. The 2023 first is likely to be somewhere in the 20s.

They’re another team that has to overcome an encumbered first-rounder heading elsewhere. They can hit up Oklahoma City to see if the Thunder will take an asset to unprotect the 2025 first-rounder they have going there. That would allow them to send Utah their 2023, ’27 and ’29 firsts with swaps, as well. But moves like that are easier said than done.

What the Knicks could offer to beat it: This would take a similar package to the one that beat the Wizards’ offer. Three unprotected first-rounders (including the ones from 2027 and ‘29, which are the most valuable) along with a couple of first-rounders from other teams and a prospect could clinch this for the Knicks. If not, they could include one more of the first-rounders from other teams or one more player and still have room to spare.

Raptors’ all-in package

OG Anunoby

Gary Trent Jr.

Precious Achiuwa

2023 first-round pick (unprotected)

2025 first-round pick (unprotected)

2027 first-round pick (unprotected)

2029 first-round pick (unprotected)

Analysis: I would bet a large sum of money the Raptors would never offer this much. It’s a massive amount to give up for Mitchell. They’ve already won a championship, so is their level of desperation the same? On top of that, who knows if the Raptors are even in a position to trade for Mitchell, considering they can also put together one of the best packages for Kevin Durant, even without including reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes, and may want to wait for that saga to end before they look elsewhere? But the point of this exercise is to take all of these trade offers to their most extreme points, then see what it would take for the Knicks to beat them. And if Toronto fell in love with Mitchell, it could present an extraordinary assortment of building blocks.

Barnes would be off the table. No offer includes him for the same reason Butler wouldn’t be in the Heat one. The Raptors could add swaps, too, if they wanted to up the ante.

They could try different variations of this deal that include, say, Pascal Siakam, but the Jazz aren’t looking for a 28-year-old under contract for only two more years, especially because Mitchell won’t even become a free agent for three years. I’m also not sure the Raptors would even do that. Siakam is a two-way, two-time All-NBA forward inside an organization addicted to length and defensive versatility. Mitchell is yet to earn those types of accolades.

Anunoby is on a team-friendly deal and isn’t quite the up-and-comer type Utah would want today, but he’s still only 25 years old, is under contract for three more years and is the exact type of player — a versatile, 3-point shooting, multi-positional defending, brawny wing — who would be a near-perfect fit on all 30 rosters. He could help anyone win. And that means the Jazz could look at him as an intermediary for more picks. He could bring back multiple first-rounders.

Achiuwa is 22, can guard like a maniac and started draining 3s at the end of last season. Trent is only 23, yet is nearly a 20-point scorer.

What the Knicks could offer to beat it: This is where it would take the Knicks going all in. They would have to give up all four of their unprotected picks (since the Raptors are doing the same) along with the three best ones from other teams; let’s say the Pistons, Wizards and Bucks. They would need a player or two, too, considering Anunoby’s status. Grimes, Quickley and Toppin would all have to be on the table. But again, there is essentially no chance the Raptors dig this far into the Mitchell market.

How six teams could trade for Mitchell, and what NYK can do to beat them (1)

Could Raptors forward OG Anunoby (left) and guard Gary Trent Jr. be included in a trade offer for Donovan Mitchell? (Kamil Krzaczynski / USA Today)

Hornets’ all-in package

Mason Plumlee

P.J. Washington

James Bouknight

Mark Williams

Kai Jones

Denver Nuggets’ 2023 first-round pick (top-14 protected in ‘23, ‘24 and ‘25, then becomes two second-rounders)

2027 first-round pick (unprotected)

2028 first-round swap (unprotected)

2029 first-round pick (unprotected)

Analysis: This is a quantity trade. The Hornets can offer three first-rounders. Two are unprotected, but the Nuggets pick can’t ever be in the lottery.

Washington is an underrated player and has sneakily run quite well as a small-ball five, but he’s a free agent after this season and is extension-eligible now. As for the other young guys in the offer …

Charlotte barely played Bouknight last season. He has to be one of the most gettable 2021 first-round selections in the league. Of the 14 lottery picks from his draft, he placed dead last in minutes played as a rookie. He played less than half as many minutes as the Golden State Warriors’ Moses Moody, who was 13th on that list, and Moody only ran so little because he played on a title team.

Jones, who went 19th in the same draft, played the second-fewest minutes of any first-round rookie last season.

Williams just went 15th in June. He’s an interesting prospect but isn’t the expected key piece in a hypothetical Mitchell deal.

The Jazz will want far-out picks, and that’s good, but the Hornets have succumbed to far-out protections, too. Their 2023 first-rounder, which they originally dealt to the Knicks on 2021 draft night and which the Knicks flipped to the Hawks in the Cam Reddish trade, is now in San Antonio and is protected through ‘25. They can trade only two unprotected firsts and considering the prospects they’re giving up, that’s not enough to top a generic Knicks package.

What the Knicks could offer to beat it: Depending on what you think of the prospects, the Hornets’ offer could beat the Wizards’. Charlotte is offering three first-rounders compared to one — an additional unprotected one as well as the Denver one. One could argue the Hornets’ is better than the Heat’s all-in offer, too. Still, the Knicks could beat Charlotte’s handily. They could match the 2027 and ‘29 first-rounders, as well as the ‘28 swap. They could include a similarly protected first-rounder from another team. If they throw Grimes in there, as well as another first-round pick, that should top this with room to spare.

Kings’ all-in package

Harrison Barnes

Keegan Murray

Davion Mitchell

2027 first-round swap (unprotected)

2028 first-round pick (unprotected)

2029 first-round swap (unprotected)

Analysis: Two months ago, the Kings could have offered more for Mitchell, but they hampered themselves with the Kevin Huerter trade, flipping a 2024 first-rounder to Atlanta and protecting it through ‘26. But, despite including only one first-round pick, this is a legitimate offer. The wonder is: Would Sacramento propose it?

I threw Murray in just because it’s the only way I could conceive of the Jazz even picking up a call from the Kings. There’s a natural follow-up to that, of course: coming off a 12th-place Western Conference finish, how could the Kings ever even mention exchanging Murray, the No. 4 choice in June’s draft, for three years of Mitchell? But there were also various reports of Sacramento shopping the fourth selection leading up to the draft. Those reports said the Kings wanted a consequential player in return. This team is trying to make the playoffs, enough so that it just traded Tyrese Haliburton (who’s not going to be good one day; he’s already good) for two and a half years of Domantas Sabonis.

Sacramento could increase the offer with a 2023 pick swap.

Davion Mitchell flashed defensive potential last season, but the offense is yet to come. The Jazz could flip Barnes for a younger player or picks at the deadline, but a half-season Barnes rental isn’t landing you a massive return.

What the Knicks could offer to beat it: If the Jazz loved Murray, there would be some juice to this offer. Think about it like this: a model that calculates the value of an average unprotected first-round pick way out into the future would project that selection to come in around No. 15. Murray just went fourth and had a great summer league. If Utah believed he had star potential, it would have to consider this. Still, the Knicks can beat it, and since the Kings could toss in only one future first-rounder, New York wouldn’t need to make its all-in offer. Three unprotected Knicks firsts along with three of the protected firsts and a young player might do it. If the Jazz aren’t big Murray believers, a superior Knicks offer would look far lighter.

Hawks’ all-in package

John Collins

De’Andre Hunter

Onyeka Okongwu

2023 first-round pick (unprotected)

Kings’ 2024 first-round pick (top-14 protected in ‘24, top-12 in ‘25, top-10 in ‘26, then becomes two second-rounders)

2024 first-round swap (unprotected)

2028 first-round swap (unprotected)

2029 first-round pick (unprotected)

Analysis: If the Hawks push all their chips to the middle of the table, they can present one of the best packages for Mitchell.

They’ve been open to trading Collins for a while. If they worked out a Mitchell deal, there’s a realistic chance he’d be in it. He’s already had a 20-and-10 season, can drain 3s, is better defensively today than he was when he first came into the league and is only 24 years old.

Okongwu has massive defensive potential, both as a rim protector and a switchblade big man who can guard away from the rim (and he’s an underrated passer), but he’s dealt with injury issues. The same could be said for Hunter, who is entering his fourth season, meaning he’s one of those extension-eligible guys with only a year remaining on his contract.

But why would the Hawks offer all of this to Utah?

They just traded a couple of unprotected first-rounders for Dejounte Murray and already have Trae Young leading the way. That’s two point guards. Piecing together all of your remaining resources to add a 6-foot-1 combo guard would be odd.

Salaries don’t technically work in this hypothetical. The Jazz are taking back a bit too much money, but that’s easy to fix. Utah could just send Rudy Gay or another of its veterans to Atlanta. Maybe the two teams could conspire to pair the two Bogdanovics together. Either way, the financial mismatching is easy to fix.

What the Knicks could offer to beat it: This is a real offer. The Knicks might have to include all four of their unprotected first-rounders, given Okongwu’s and Hunter’s potential, as well as a couple of the protected ones from other teams. If they included that much, though, they should be able to hold onto a couple of the young trio, meaning Grimes, Toppin or Quickley.

Final thoughts

The Non-Knicks Six may not be the only teams who inquire about Mitchell. Maybe another organization that’s not in the mix today notices the stagnating market and tries to capitalize on it.

If the Orlando Magic wanted to speed up their timeline, they could throw loads of their picks, as well as lightly protected ones from the Nuggets and Chicago Bulls, along with a talented young guy or two. But realistically, they’re way too far from even the Play-In Tournament to make a move like that.

The Cleveland Cavaliers could build an offer around Jarrett Allen and three of their firsts, though that would require a massive identity change and speeding up their schedule, as well.

The Mavericks could seek to pair Mitchell with Luka Doncic but the 2023 first-rounder of theirs that the Knicks own is protected through ‘25; they could deal only two first-round selections. They don’t have a sought-after young player to anchor a trade, either.

The Portland Trail Blazers, who are gunning for the postseason with Damian Lillard entering his age-32 season, would probably love someone of Mitchell’s caliber, but they are victims of the longest pick-protecting approach in the league; their 2023 first-rounder is going to Chicago and is protected until 2028, which means they cannot trade a first-rounder at all.

This exercise should explain why, at least for now, the Knicks wouldn’t meet an asking price of six or seven first-rounders in a Mitchell trade. Even if most of the Non-Knicks Six wanted to dive into the Mitchell pool, a four- or five-pick offer from New York could still best them. The Raptors and Hawks can technically make loaded proposals, but would either come close to their max offers in real life? Would the Kings unload the entire cupboard to add three years of Mitchell to a 52-loss squad?

Any organization would be hesitant to unleash every asset it has for a player who’s never made All-NBA. Even in trades for superstars, teams push to keep at least one or two of their top players or draft assets. So, factor in this reality: these teams are unlikely to offer their all-in packages to Utah, and once that sinks in, what the Knicks could be willing to give up starts to shrink even more. There’s a world where (depending on which players and protected picks are in the offer) a Knicks package with only two unprotected first-rounders is the best one on the table.

So, we have a standstill. The Jazz want an A-plus return, and the Knicks could give one, but why do it if no one else is offering better than a B?

(Top photo of Donovan Mitchell: Alex Goodlett / Getty Images)

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