While the bid for Donovan Mitchell hasn’t ended, Knicks fans were delivered a different gift on Monday as their team’s front office — for the first time in 23 years — agreed to a multi-year extension with a player it drafted in the first round. RJ Barrett is the youngest $100 millionaire-to-be in franchise history.
Despite being involved in trade discussions with the Jazz for Mitchell, the 22-year-old Barrett, who averaged 20 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last year, signed a four-year extension worth up to $120 million.
What does Barrett’s signing mean for the team?
The Knicks are going all in with their core. They signed Jalen Brunson to a four-year, $104 million deal in the offseason to pair with Barrett and Julius Randle. Though no player on their current roster was an All-Star last year, the Knicks are going to try and reach the playoffs for the second time since 2013.
Will the Knicks make the playoffs?
That’s a tough bet to make (+152, bet $100 to win $152), though it isn’t impossible. Last year, New York missed a play-in game opportunity by a full seven games, and their net rating was a -.4, the 19th-best in the league. They were incredibly mediocre.
If Randle can bounce back from an underwhelming junior season with the Knicks and Brunson, a player who averaged 21.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in the playoffs, can mesh with the existing group, there’s a path for them at the bottom of the playoff table.
If they want to become a sure thing, a trade for Mitchell may be necessary, though.
The path to Mitchell still exists
Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Knicks and Jazz haven’t ruled out restarting trade talks in September, and Utah isn’t seriously talking to another Mitchell suitor right now. Barrett’s signing does make things more complicated, though, as his contract “poison pill” would require the Jazz overcompensate for a $26.2 million salary despite the guard only being paid $10.9 million until July 1. Put simply: Barrett’s unlikely to move from the Knicks this year.
Utah already moved Rudy Gobert for a bevy of draft picks — five to be exact — and the Jazz have eyes to pull a similar haul for Mitchell. The Knicks can still make salaries work with some combination of Evan Fournier, Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin. They’d likely work with another team to have draft capital they’d feel comfortable parting with.
All this is to say the Mitchell to New York pipeline isn’t dead. It’s just being reimagined.