Good morning! It’s been a few days, and I gotta say, I’ve moved on from the Mitchell thing faster than I thought I would. Am I still a little bummed? Of course. Are there still some pretty big questions hanging over the organization and the roster? You betcha. We’ll get to some of those today, and over the rest of this week. All in all though, I feel pretty OK, at least in comparison to when the news first dropped.
Maybe your best newsletter yet on a topic I don’t want to read and yet can’t stop myself. There are four other reasons to be very concerned about the Rose regime:
1. The Knicks were arrogant: not only were they sure they could put together the best package, they made sure it was broadcasted. So Ainge had every emotional motive to trade Mitchell anywhere but NY. And that arrogance led the, to make the deal killing assumption, that the Jazz would bring the Cavs’ offer back to the Knicks. I am sure the Cavs said, take it or leave it and you may not shop it.
2. The Knicks got too cute. Every fan knows that you are going to give more than you want for a superstar. The Knicks thought they could have their cake and eat it too. And again, Ainge was more than pleased to take the Cavs offer and not deal with the Knicks.
3. This one hurts the most. The Knicks told their fans that the fans are wrong. They took a guy -- RJ who many fans were optimistic about and basically said, the fans were wrong, he is no star, he never will be a star. So now the fans either believe they are wrong or the Knicks are wrong. The Knicks being wrong means that RJ is just another player, one the Knicks don’t place high value. Thus, the fans should not either. Or you are like me and still have confidence in RJ developing into a star and now They question the intelligence of the Knicks front office.
4. Rose lost the negotiation. Hell, Rose was not here because he was a sharp evaluator of talent, he was brought here to get stars in the building and as a former agent, he would be a slick and smart negotiator.
Now the question is, “why is Rose the President of the Knicks.
So to some it up, we did not get the star we were promised, we wasted the 11th pick in the draft; the players we were all excited about Knick management is not; and hell’s bells, the least favorite Knick of the past 25 years is still on the team.
It feels very bleak around the Knicks and I think many (including myself) believe the Rose regime needs to go and they need to bring in an insider like the Nets did with Sean Marks or the Jazz just did with Ainge. The Knicks need to reset.
Another phenomenal read!
I think you touched on basically all the points that needed to be covered, except for one: Leon and his background. At the end of the day, Leon is an agent. He’s not a FO executive and was never one until he joined the Knicks. This is not me putting down his credentials, I am simply pointing out that agents tend to view things and then subsequently act differently, then what we know as “normal FO executives”. I would like to clarify that I am clearly not an agent so I cannot speak to how they might view things in a different manner. However, in saying that, it might not be a coincidence that the Knicks and Lakers both had agents at the helm of their organization making decisions during their failed pursuits of Mitchell and (the initial failed pursuit of) AD, which as you point out are quite similar in a number of ways. Also, it would be quite interesting if we were to find out the opinions of one of our other FO members who actually had history as a FO executive, say Scott Perry, to see what his thoughts were about this potential trade, and to see if he was onboard with all the speculated proposals and ideas. Basically, I would love to know if this seemingly relentless pursuit of Mitchell, at least from the willingness to trade and table all the young players point of view, was driven by Leon and Wes, or from the more experienced FO members. Would love to hear any thoughts!
a lot of the reporting on the deal seems contradictory. here's my take on how it went down.
> Ainge opened the negotiations asking for the moon -- RJ, Mitch, OBI and three UP firsts and more
> Leon said no way and resigned Mitch
> Leon countered with a pick heavy deal not including RJ
> Ainge said he needed RJ in the deal
> Leon told Bill Duffy the situation and said knicks would prefer to sign RJ at 100-120 mil b4 camp
> Duffy got word to Ainge that RJ wasnt playing in UTA for less than the full max
> Ainge called Duffy's bluff because he knew he could redirect RJ to a third team for a boatload
> Ainge continued to insist the knicks include their best asset - RJ
> Leon relents and tells Ainge he can have RJ but only 2 future picks not three and nothing else.
> Ainge insists on three picks and more assets WITH RJ
> Leon says no deal he's signing RJ long term.
> RJ signs long term so Ainge turns to Cavs.
with this TL Leon used the leverage of UTA wanting RJ ( at least as an asset to redirect) to get RJ for a less than FULL max deal.
the whole part of Leon valuing Q Grimes as untouchable but willing to offer RJ in any deal sounds far fetched or made up. i think the demands for RJ came from UTA -- Ainge was not doing a deal without the KNICKS best asset.. was it spite for showing up at the playoffs? maybe.. but AINGE wanted players HE liked.. REMEMBER he liked Sexton A LOT.. and getting sexton to agree to 4/75 was better for Ainge than getting RJ who would not want to play in UTA.
so we move on. hopefully knicks find a taker for Randle and Ev .. Randle more urgently.
Jon, I disagree with your article. Usually you write from an analytical perspective. This was from an emotional perspective such that I didn’t understand half of what you wrote.
In the past you have convinced me to keep Thibs. After this article I feel Thibs and WWW need to go. They do not fit Leon Rose and a winning team strategy. I am sure there is some pressure from Dolan, but I feel Leon Rose is strong enough to handle. We need a development FO.
Rose took the steps he had to take. He signed Robinson, he needed a Julian Brunson, after he saw Mitchell, Durant and others weren’t going to be available at the right price he signed Barrett.
Grimes, Obi and Quick are not going to be affected. They are Knicks and they will show us what they got if given a chance.
For sure, there are a couple of white elephants in the room. Rose didn’t have a solution that would make Mitchell work as part of the team.
He couldn’t waste anymore time. The Knicks weren’t going anywhere with Mitchell and the status quo. So Rose Choose to move on.
Well, that was not depressing at all.
Seems like everyone I root for is bad at talent evaluation to some degree, but the Knicks might have made a confused art form of not knowing what they are doing. And yet I still want to see what this team does. More fool me.
Jon - You started off summarizing that the Knicks attempted to complete the trade on their own terms and weren't willing to relent giving Ainge what he wanted.... and that's why the deal didn't get done ... I understand you are bummed but I think the front office was aggressive making a bunch of strong offers in various configurations and the Cavs ultimately made what Ainge thought was a better offer .... Maybe you should have a column or pod with Jeremy on the alternate history of the negotiations where KFS as the GM gets the deal done or walks away now we know the final outcome.
Regarding your points:
#1 - You assert that failing to get Mitchell demonstrates the Knicks ability to assess talent is in question. My view is that Mitchell is a star not a superstar. He's someone I would give up a lot (but not everything for). I believe the front office felt the same way. In your post-mortem last week, you said that ultimately you would not have given up RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, three unprotected firsts, two unprotected swaps, a few seconds and a protected first in exchange for Donovan Mitchell. Aren't you basically evaluating Mitchell's talent in the same ballpark as the front office? So, I don't understand why you are saying their ability to evaluate talent is in question? You also say they struck out twice in the last two months (including Ivey). But, they were actually 1-1 getting Brunson as a free agent. Brunson out-played Mitchell in the play-offs. So, worst case, they were 1-3 which gets you into the baseball hall of fame.
#2 - The front office offered RJ in a Mitchell deal because Mitchell is a better player than RJ is right now. I have to believe RJ understands his place in the NBA pecking order. They didn't give RJ a max deal because .... drumrolll ... he isn't a max player yet. They also didn't evaluate him like Seth Partnow would have. If RJ and his agent really thought he was a max player, he could have declined to sign this extension and bet on himself to prove it to the Knicks ala Ayton last year.
#3 I 100% believe the front office was surprised and disappointed. I also believe Steve Mills or Isaiah Thomas would have given up everything Ainge wanted and more to get the deal done. At the end of the day, the front office didn't want to give up what Ainge wanted and ultimately got. Surprise is only a big deal if Leon was actually willing to give up what the Cavs gave up. Your reporting says he wasn't. Of course, it would have been nice if Ainge caved and came groveling back and did the deal at the price Leon wanted to pay. But, the Cavs were willing to pay and we weren't.
#4 - A large part of the draft day maneuvering was to try to get Ivey. When they didn't, they made the trades to clear cap space to sign Brunson. The salary of the draft pick was also a factor in clearing cap space. We ended up getting Brunson -- who outplayed Mitchell in the playoffs -- and 3 future protected FRP's for the various players and the lottery pick. I personally would have preferred to draft someone at 12 and start IQ rather than pursue Brunson. I was disappointed initially but am ok with how the draft day trades went down since we signed Brunson.
In my opinion the entire FO needs to be reevaluated from top to bottom. Their FA signings have been mostly failures, their draft classes are basically failures, and they cannot be perceived as to have ‘won’ any trades they have made. The coach they selected has not allowed the kids to play to see what they’ve got and the team in general sits in the middle of the pack, which essentially puts them right outside of having a shot to get a top pick.
I’m sure I’ll get some pushback on Rose, I’d agree if he wasn’t hurt all the time. Grimes, but I can’t agree either because I haven’t seen him play enough to agree (summer league doesn’t count). Some of the other other ‘kids’, but again I haven’t seen them play enough AND if they were that good, they’d be in Utah right now.
So, as a long time NYK fan, this may as well be a FO of years past with the only caveat being that they don’t trade away future No. 1’s.
Do you think 3 unprotected picks and a combination of 2 of Grimes, Obi, Quickley, some veteran to match salaries and some of the unprotected picks would have gotten this deal done? I always thought that's how the deal would have gone down and I would have been okay with that but it would have sucked losing a few young guys...but hey you gotta give to get! Now I don't know if the front office would like a deal like this because it may have stripped them of their assets to make a trade for a second star. Though maybe if they kept some of those unprotected picks one or two would have become rotational players or better...wishful thinking on my part!
I’m fine with it, Danny Ainge’s entire strategy was to make NY bid against themselves, and if not getting Mitchell is the price you have to pay to break that reputation around the league, then that’s what you have to do. The Yankees had to go through a period like this, where everyone in baseball held out because they knew Steinbrenner would overrule the front office and give away the store, which is the same thing Dolan has done for years.
This is actually good, we are probably a better team without the trade than with it. With Kemba Walker gone and Fournier either gone or reduced to 20 min a night the defense won’t be a sieve anymore, and we will more be in line with the team we were 2 years ago.
Think of it this way, the difference between Boston two years ago and last year was getting the defensive liability of Walker and Fournier off their roster. Not saying we are a 50 win team yet, but I feel we are a winning team, right now I feel we can win 42-45 games.
People might laugh at that, but this time a year ago people would have laughed if you said the Celtics would be in the finals.
I wouldn’t be against moving Randal, Redish, and Fournier to the Lakers for Westbrook. It clears money, clears PT for Obi, clears shots for everybody, and you pick up some picks as well, even if they are protected, which if you agree to pick protections probably gets the Lakers to pull the trigger. Whatever you get out of Westbrook is gravy, taking him in is more about the cap space, and that still puts the Knicks in the position where they can make moves, and they are still one move away.
“... front office who so flagrantly laid bare its intentions by showing up at Game 1 of Utah / Dallas, why, that was just the cherry on top.” Interesting thought. My assumption was that they were there to watch Brunson and maybe try to pedal Randall should the opportunity have arisen.
I’m super conflicted about all of this.
Can we begin by saying that Ainge took a vastly inferior package from Cleveland than anything NY was offering? Whatever we may think of RJ as a star or potential star, I think it’s fair to say he’s better than any of Lauri, Sexton, or Agbaji. Arguably all the young players the Knicks offered are better than what Cle offered - hell, Q was a better defensive player as a rookie than Sexton has been ever.
As for picks, 2 unprotected picks or 2 unprotected and a 3rd lightly protected pick from NY is likely to be vastly more valuable than 5 picks from a team with 3 all stars and the ROY runner up, who is already looking like a potential all star and perennial DPOY candidate, giving them 4 all star level players. Add to that our beloved team’s propensity to, shall we say, underperform, the much smarter bet for landing a lottery pick is to get NY’s picks. It would take a melt down of colossal proportions for Cle to be a lottery team again in 4 years. I think the appropriate phrase here is: it could happen, but it’s not the way to bet.
So Ainge took a substantially worse package from Cleveland. So, did Leon lose the negotiation? Or was he negotiating with a nut case? Ainge’s asking price was too high and he wouldn’t budge. From a basketball perspective Mitchell was a good but not great fit. So I’m not sure Leon lost the negotiation at all, and I kinda wish there was more talk about the fact that turning down those Knick offers for Cleveland’s poo-poo patter of 5 picks in the mid to late 20s was completely nuts. I think Ainge took a lesser package, for whatever reason.
Wrt Leon hanging his players out to dry in the media afterward: maybe. Wrt talent evaluation: I’ve complain about NYs shitty talent evaluation for years. Too much gut, not enough analytics, not enough thoughtful roster construction. I love IQ but Bane was a vastly better payer, and the analytics crowd knew it. I love Obi, but from a roster construction perspective we should’ve picked TyHal.
Executives have learning curves too. Thibs loves vets, so Leon gave him vets. The vets shit the bed in year 2 but Thibs played them anyway, making talent evaluation vastly more difficult. So in the off-season, Leon got rid of as many vets as possible, saving only D Rose & trying desperately to unload ALL the rest, Thibs favorites or no. This feels to me a bit like an executive learning the job, while occupying arguably the toughest job in basketball .
Next, he’ll hire more analytics geeks and draft better.
This year’s best case: RJ makes the leap, JB plays at near all star levels, Obi turns into Amar’e 2.0 with a better 3 pointer, and the kids get enough playing time for us to get clearer on what we have and what we need. Worst case: we suck , get one more high draft pick, and this time we get it right.
Great article, JMac! I agree with much of it. One area where I will slightly disagree - I think the capacity for this front office to make evaluations has been in question since at least the 2021 off-season and arguably since their first season (the no fans, pandemic season).
Their mistakes in my view, which I called at the time I feel comfortable saying it’s not hindsight:
1) Toppin over Haliburton in their first draft. Toppin is a nice piece, Haliburton is the type of player you build around in the modern NBA. I screamed in agony when they didn’t take him in draft night. Obi seems like a wonderful guy… just not sure I see him starting on a playoffs team.
2) Not trading Randle when he started the pandemic season hot. Instead acquiring DRose. Knicks were 11-14, in a season with no fans in the building. And the 2021 draft was loaded. It was the perfect time to tank. Dump Randle, don’t trade for Rose and we have a chance at a top five pick in a draft that featured Cade, Green, Barnes, Mobley, and Suggs. Bonus points - we could’ve started evaluating Obi and RJ as offensive focal points that much sooner. It was Rose’s first season, he should have absolutely maximized the best asset he had at that point - his own 2021 draft pick. I said this at the time. It was a huge miscalculation imho.
3) The 2021 off-season. Doubling down on Randle’s fluky shooting in empty gyms to add terrible contracts. I said it at the time on your show via super chats, etc. Fournier contract was horrible - he plays no defense at all and basically signed for a similar deal as Lonzo Ball did, who is much better value even with the injuries. Kemba contract was a huge gamble, guaranteeing the second year cost them a first to unload his albatross. Not to mention they re-upped on Randle, which took about a month of play in the 21-22 season to feel like a terrible move.
4) Opportunity cost in the draft in 2021 and 2022. They unloaded their 19th overall pick, punting for a future Charlotte pick, which they then turned into Cam. One problem - their coach wasn’t on the same page and had no desire to play Cam. A guy who essentially plays the same position as Fournier btw. It is insane to me that they’re already out on Cam. Insane. But they seem to be ready to dump him. Then in the 2022, as mentioned, they had to dump the 11th overall pick to unload Kemba. Yes, they got back three protected firsts… but we’ve seen the value of those is low. Did those three firsts have as much value as Ochai Agbaji? It sure doesn’t seem like it.
I am very down on the big picture evaluations this front office has made. They’ve been conservative, which I appreciate in comparison to the Isiah regime… but when I look at the big picture roster evaluations and roster construction decisions… I have serious doubts. The single best thing this front office could have done would’ve been to tank in 2021. Imagine a core of Haliburton, RJ, and Mobley-or-Barnes right now? That’s a team that you feel comfortable giving up picks and adding Mitchell to. Keeping Randle in 2021 and then doubling down and signing him long-term feel like hugely terrible decisions.
I’ll still root hard for the boys. I’m excited to see Jalen Brunson. But we could have such a drastically different team right now and it kills me.
In a slightly different reality we have:
PG - Haliburton
SG - Mitchell
PF - Mobley or Barnes
C - Mitch
I won’t even get into the talk about how terrible the 2017 and 2018 lotto picks Perry and Mills made. Those picks were also horrendous and set us back years. And Perry is still here, though it’s unclear what he does, since Windhorst reported Gerson Rosas was the one making calls to Utah on the Mitchell trade.
I have serious doubts about this front office going forward. Though even if we’d gotten Mitchell, I’d have serious doubts about them as well. To me the decisions made in 2021 during the season and off-season wrote the book for how the Mitchell negotiations would go and what type of team we could surround him with. Anyway. Moving on.
I think I disagree your take a couple times in this article. One Leon was brought here to make the team better. You can’t have 12 rookies trying to prove they are more then just a role players and win games. That’s just the way it works. They have not done a good job show casing there youth while trying to keep a blanche. While trying to keep a balance the team has accumulated assets to potentially use in trades. I think the take that says the job is to eventually trade for a star is off. They have assets and will look to make trades that make the team better. That doesn’t have to be big a block buster for ready made star. Second I don’t think Barrett is the best prospect on this team. I think it’s a legitimate opinion but and I don’t think he has done anything to make that a forgone conclusion at this point. Thanks for read and happy Labor Day