R.J. Barrett’s Knicks extension affects Donovan Mitchell trade talks, and ends one of NBA’s most pathetic streaks

It’s been a rough millennium for the New York Knicks. The franchise has won exactly one playoff series since 2000, and has missed the postseason altogether in 16 of the last 22 years. The Knicks have become a league-wide laughing stock for numerous reasons: it starts with poor ownership from James Dolan, and includes a long list of bad coaches, failed free agent signings, lopsided trades, and botched internal development.

The Knicks have of course also been pretty terrible in the NBA Draft. Despite regularly picking in the lottery, New York has consistently missed on landing the sort of long-term building blocks in the draft that help sustain organizations. Even when the Knicks have drafted a good player over the last 20 years, they screwed it up by trading them or failing to reach a long-term contract.

The last time the Knicks agreed to a multi-year extension with a first round pick at the end of their rookie deal was famously Charlie Ward, who was drafted in 1994. If you are a sports fan of a certain age, you will remember Ward as the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for Florida State who eventually picked basketball over football, and enjoyed a nice career as a caretaker point guard in the league for 12 seasons. Ward was a perfectly fine player, but he also averaged under seven points per game for his career. If he is your best draft pick in almost 30 years, something is deeply wrong with the franchise.

On Monday night, the Knicks finally ended their pathetic streak of failing to sign their own first round draft picks. The team agreed to a five-year, $120 million extension with R.J. Barrett. The deal at once likely keeps Barrett out of the highly-publicized Donovan Mitchell trade talks, and establishes him as a clear leader of New York’s future. For the first time since Charlie Ward, the Knicks have finally agreed to a long-term extension with a player they drafted.

Knicks’ list of first round draft picks that didn’t agree to an extension

Here’s the list full list of players the Knicks didn’t re-sign after they drafted them. Only David Lee signed a second contract with the team, and that was a one-year deal before he was eventually traded to the Golden State Warriors.

1996: John Wallace, No. 18

1996: Walter McCarty, No. 19

1996: Dontae’ Jones, No. 21

1997: John Thomas, No. 25

1999: Frederic Weis, No. 15

2000: Donnell Harvey, No. 22

2002: Nene, No. 7

2003: Michael Sweetney, No. 9

2005: Channing Frye, No. 8

2005: David Lee, No. 30

2006: Renaldo Balkman, No. 20

2006: Mardy Collins, No. 29

2007: Wilson Chandler, No. 23

2008: Danilo Gallinari, No. 6

2009: Jordan Hill, No. 8

2011: Iman Shumpert, No. 17

2013: Tim Hardaway Jr., No. 24

2015: Kristaps Porzingis, No. 4

2017: Frank Ntilikina, No. 8

2018: Kevin Knox, No. 9

Donovan Mitchell Knicks rumors: What does the R.J. Barrett extension mean for trade with Utah?

The Knicks’ dream of landing Mitchell from the Jazz is not over because they re-signed Barrett, but it did become a little more difficult. Barrett’s inclusion in a potential package for Mitchell was always centered on whether Utah actually wanted him. After Barrett agreed to his extension, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Jazz “greatly valued” Barrett as part of a trade package.

Barrett’s contract includes a “poison pill” that would have his outgoing salary count as $10.9 million in a trade, but his incoming salary count as $26.2 million for the team acquiring him. That is going to make him tough to deal.

It still feels like the Knicks are the most likely landing spot for Mitchell. The Jazz reportedly want at least five first round picks. New York has the extra picks from other teams to potentially make a deal work, but what Utah really wants is New York’s own unprotected future first rounders. Knicks summer league star Quentin Grimes is also reportedly coveted by Utah as he enters his second season.

The Knicks can land Mitchell if they pay up with the draft picks Utah wants. At the same time, New York doesn’t want to overpay for Mitchell and fully drain their asset base moving forward. Even if they did land Mitchell, it wouldn’t be a final move to push the team towards legitimate contention in the East. More work would need to be done.

The Knicks are betting that the Jazz don’t have a better offer than the one from them. The Knicks simply don’t want to bid against themselves. While Mitchell can list Brooklyn and Miami as his other preferred destinations, only the Knicks have the first round picks and young talent required to pull off a deal. From Utah’s side, they don’t want to deal Mitchell for less than they got for Rudy Gobert. The Gobert trade — which netted Utah five first round picks if you include incoming rookie Walker Kessler — really threw the entire trade market out of wack this offseason.

The bet here is that Mitchell eventually lands on the Knicks at some point this season, and that Barrett isn’t included in the deal. How good would a Knicks team led by Mitchell, Barrett, and Jalen Brunson actually be? It should be the foundation of a playoff team, but real title aspirations would require one more big piece at minimum.

With the Kevin Durant trade talks officially over, the league is now waiting on Mitchell to be moved. This Barrett extension will potentially make everyone wait a little longer.

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