Knicks ‘hopeful’ about Donovan Mitchell trade after RJ Barrett contract

Obi Toppin was slated to throw out the first pitch Tuesday at Citi Field as part of “Knicks Night” when the Dodgers faced the Mets.

With Donovan Mitchell trade talks not dead despite RJ Barrett’s imminent contract extension, Toppin could soon be in line to throw out the first pitch for the Salt Lake Bees – the Dodgers’ Triple A affiliate.

According to a source, the Knicks are “hopeful” they can pull off a Mitchell deal without Barrett. The source says the Knicks would not have come to this Barrett decision if they felt it would kill the trade.

Jazz president Danny Ainge likes Barrett but he has prioritized gaining four unprotected first-round picks for Mitchell, a three-time All-Star.

That may not be possible unless a third team such as the Lakers could be added to revive talks. According to a source, the Lakers are open to discussions and are still interested in forward Cam Reddish.

Ainge reportedly has eyes on the Lakers’ 2027 and 2029 picks. Knicks president Leon Rose has yet to offer more than two unprotected first-round picks, along with three conditional picks, which are not as enticing to Ainge, as reported first by The Post.

The Knicks remain “hopeful” they can pull off a trade with the Jazz for Donovan Mitchell (45).

If Rose pulls off the Barrett-Mitchell exacta, he would’ve completed his offseason plan that was bent on righting all the wrongs from the free-agent summer of 2021.

On draft night, Rose sacrificed his lottery pick at No. 11 to clear cap space for point guard Jalen Brunson while adding additional draft capital for a Mitchell-like deal.

Plus, Rose locked up Barrett for a lot less than the maximum contract extension in agreeing to a four-year, $120 million package that includes incentives involving team wins, All-NBA, All-Star and All-Defensive Team selections.

The rookie-max for the 2019 class — after the latest cap increase — was five years, $193 million, according to former Nets capologist and ESPN’s NBA financial expert Bobby Marks. Originally it was $185 million.

Marks told The Post Barrett got himself a sound deal since it is comparable with the extension package signed by Boston’s Jaylen Brown, more accomplished as a winning player. Brown signed a four-year, $106 million extension two years ago.

Knicks brass didn’t see Barrett as proving enough to be a max guy yet.

“Utah never wanted to be the team to pay (Barrett) — let New York overpay for a decent but not top-of-the-line player,” one coaching source said. “But Mitchell can wind up in NY as soon as they come to an agreement on how many No. 1 draft pick is included.”

Toppin, shooting guard Quentin Grimes and Evan Fournier’s contract are the most likely trio in a deal along with the picks.

Ainge reportedly is trying to ramp up talks with other teams after Monday
night’s Barrett announcement by agent Bill Duffy.

But many in the league believe Ainge won’t find a package for Mitchell, who removed the Jazz from his Twitter bio on Tuesday, quite like the Knicks’. That’s what Rose is banking on as he stares down the prestigious Jazz executive in a high-stakes game of poker.

Some in the league feel if Rose pulls this off, he’d be wise to move Julius Randle, too. However, if Toppin is in the deal, that makes less sense.

The Knicks are giving RJ Barrett a four-year, $120 million contract extension.
The Knicks are giving RJ Barrett a four-year, $120 million contract extension.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

A foursome of Jalen Brunson, Mitchell, Barrett and Randle is wonderful on paper but below-average defensively and could be wrought with chemistry issues since they each love the basketball.

“The hard part is moving on from Randle,” the coaching source said. “They might have to if you have Mitchell, Brunson and RJ.

“Randle can’t be a wanna-be equal of Mitchell or RJ in terms of touches, shots. His game is a ball-dominant scorer who can pass willingly and make plays for his teammates but only when he feels like it. He’s become a difficult teammate to play with.”

Still, it would be fascinating to watch it unfold but the foursome also creates a questionable, long-term financial situation.

The foursome would take up more than $110 million of the $123 million cap in the 2023-24 season once Barrett’s contact extension takes effect.

Randle is due $25 million, Brunson $26.3 million, Mitchell $32.6 million and Barrett an estimated $27 million guaranteed for the first year.

That’s not a lot of trade flexibility, especially without first-round picks to peddle. And that is why Rose and Ainge haven’t struck an agreement.


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