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The RJ Barrett Trade Story Is Over

As Utah sends Donovan Mitchell to Cleveland instead of New York

RJ Barrett Offseason Workout in LA
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 10: A behind the scenes photo of a RJ Barrett #9 of the New York Knicks workout on August 10, 2022 at Shalhevet High School in Los Angeles, California. 
Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

The RJ Barrett story where he might have gotten traded to Utah for Donovan Mitchell and a couple of banks that Danny Ainge held up for the Jazz is well and truly over: Utah consummated a trade with the Cleveland Cadavaliers Thursday, sending them Mitchell for five first rounders and Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen and Ochai Agbaji.

It’s not our job to do deals like this and a lot goes into it that we can’t know, but that seems like a crazy price for one player.

Utah gets unprotected picks in 2025, 2027 and 2029 and also get to swap picks in 2026 and 2028 if they so desire.

And the Knicks?

Surprisingly, they were not stupid enough to dump Barrett. He may not be the most massively talented player in the league, but he offers something that every team needs: he works.

Some players would be indifferent to that, but the former Duke star, in our opinion, is the key to reviving a decent culture with the Knicks. Who else? Surely not Julius Randle. Barrett is not as talented as Kobe Bryant was, but his work ethic could be just as critical to the Knicks as Bryant’s was to the Lakers. Somebody has to lead by example.

Maybe someone else will emerge who can help give New York what Barrett has been giving them, but if so, he hasn’t shown it yet.

The other benefit of the deal falling through is that the Knicks still have a lot of future draft picks. If they don’t strike a deal somewhere else, they can get good players via the draft.

Still, look at what Ainge accomplished here. Utah has picks in 2025, 2027 and 2029 from this trade, plus possibly two higher picks than they would have had otherwise. And Ainge picked up more in the Rudy Gobert trade, including this year’s #22 pick, which ended up being Walker Kessler, first round picks in 2023, 2025, and 2027, 2029 as long as Minnesota doesn’t have a Top Five pick and the right to swap picks with the T-Wolves in 2026.

It’s a bounty, but Ainge would have to at least consider trading all of it - every single pick - if it meant getting Utah the first pick next season.

We’ve mentioned it before, but Victor Wembanya, the 7-3 French unicorn, is going to cause a lot of teams to take massive gambles and Utah isn’t the only team trying to get into position to draft a player that could revolutionize the game.