The Cavs won a bidding war against the Knicks to trade for Donovan Mitchell. And like it or not, they won with the better offer.
You can forgive some members of the Knicks’ front office for being frustrated they didn’t land Donovan Mitchell. They were presumed to be the frontrunners throughout negotiations, right up until the moment the Cleveland Cavaliers swept in and landed him.
According to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, some in the Knicks organization feel that Danny Ainge used their offer to leverage additional value from Cleveland without giving them a chance to make a counteroffer. That may be true, and a legitimate gripe, but the idea (also presented in Bondy’s article) that the Cavs didn’t have the better offer is absurd:
"The Knicks, according to sources, feel like their proposals with R.J. Barrett as the centerpiece with multiple first-round picks were better than the Cavs’ final offer, which is up to interpretation."
Did the Knicks really have a better offer for Donovan Mitchell?
Even if the Knicks were willing to match the future draft picks that the Cavs put on the table — their last offer was rumored to be two unprotected picks, two protected picks and two pick swaps — the actual players involved seem to push this pretty clearly in Cleveland’s favor. The Knicks reportedly had offered R.J. Barrett, Obi Toppin and Evan Fournier along with those picks.
Fournier is a veteran with no real value to the Jazz. Even if they were able to flip him for something else, there’s no guarantee they could have gotten something better than rookie Ochai Agbaji (the No. 14 pick) they got from Cleveland. Toppin was taken with the No. 8 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft but his first two seasons have been underwhelming at best and he’s not even a full year younger than Lauri Markkanen who is on a team-friendly deal and averaged 14.8 points on a 58.2 true shooting percentage last season.
And while Collin Sexton missed nearly all of last season with a torn meniscus, he’s still just 23 years old, has a far superior track record of productivity to Barrett and re-signed with Utah on a four-year, $72 million contract that’s much less than what Utah would have had to pay Barrett. Call me crazy, but I’d pick the Cavaliers package every day of the week and twice on Sunday.