On paper, it is a no-brainer.
Donovan Mitchell is a three-time All-Star. He’s a difference-maker at only 25 years of age. He is a New Yorker who understands the pressure that comes with playing for the Knicks, and is repped by CAA, the agency Knicks president Leon Rose once ran.
But this isn’t free agency. This isn’t Jalen Brunson. To land Mitchell, who reportedly is available via trade from the rebuilding Jazz, it would take a haul. That could mean franchise building block RJ Barrett and other young players. It likely would mean several first-round draft picks.
As much as Rose and the Knicks may want Mitchell, the price could be exorbitant. Remember, the Jazz recently received four first-round picks (three unprotected) and a pick swap from the Timberwolves for Rudy Gobert, a solid player but not as valued as Mitchell. They also landed quality players Patrick Beverly, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt, along with the 20th-overall pick in this year’s draft, center Walker Kessler, in the blockbuster deal.
“In the first two years, it could benefit [the Knicks]. But it could backfire later on,” an NBA scout told The Post, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I like Mitchell, but he hasn’t gotten out of the second round, and he’s had two really, really good teams in Utah.
“He’s a very good player. I don’t think he’s a No. 1 player on a championship team. At his size, I don’t think he’s going to elevate the Knicks into a championship stratosphere. They’ll probably be a sure-fire playoff team, but I don’t think they get into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference necessarily.”
That said, Mitchell is a perennial All-Star who has averaged 23.9 points and 4.5 assists during his five-year career with the Jazz. His presence alone would upgrade the Knicks’ roster and would create a potentially dynamic backcourt alongside Brunson.
If all it took was the 22-year-old Barrett for Mitchell to become a Knick, the scout pointed out, it would be an easy decision. But that’s not reality. Barrett doesn’t have that kind of cachet quite yet. But he is improving, he is developing, and he plays a vital position (the wing) in today’s NBA.
“I wouldn’t personally [include Barrett], just because I think 6-6 wings are harder to come by than 6-foot-1 scoring shooting guards,” said the scout, noting Mitchell’s defensive shortcomings. “The wing position is more valuable than the shooting-guard position. … In a year or two, I can see Barrett being an All-Star.
“He’s more all-around on both ends, but Mitchell is obviously a better offensive player, for sure.”
A league source agreed with the scout, questioning how much better landing Mitchell would make the Knicks if it would require trading Barrett on top of other assets. He was unsure if a backcourt of Mitchell and Brunson would work because they are both undersized guards who could struggle on the defensive end, and he believes Barrett is a future All-Star.
“There is no reason to mortgage the future two years into a rebuild,” the league source said. “They are headed in the right direction. They should stay the course and not become the Nets.”
It remains to be seen what it would take for the Knicks to acquire Mitchell. SNY.tv reported that prior to the news that Mitchell could be had for the right offer, the Knicks were against including Barrett in any trade. The Jazz would also have to be willing to pay Barrett, who is now eligible for a rookie max extension that could be as much as five years for $185 million.
Mitchell’s father, Donovan Sr., told The Post he hadn’t spoken to his son yet about his precarious situation in Utah, though he was headed home. Asked if coming home to play would be enticing, Donovan Sr., said: “I know he just likes to play ball.” That could happen back home — but only if the Knicks are willing to gulp hard and meet the Jazz’s demands. Unlike Brunson, this next acquisition won’t be nearly as straight forward. There are positives and negatives to it.