Mitchell isn’t wearing orange and blue yet, but we take a look at one of the most exciting potential backcourts in Knicks’ history.
The Donovan Mitchell homecoming and union with the Knicks has been the dominating headline in ‘Bockers land over the past couple of months. With the Utah Jazz seemingly tearing their team down to the studs and rebuilding, it is almost a foregone conclusion that the 25-year-old shooting guard will be shipped out of Salt Lake City. The resignation of Quin Snyder and the blockbuster Rudy Gobert trade to Minnesota were the first dominos to fall. The next one hopefully results in the arrival of Mitchell in the Big Apple.
There have been many reports and leaks over the past week or so with regards to Danny Ainge’s demands in a Mitchell trade, as well as other teams that are interested in acquiring Spida. Momentum on Mitchell coming to New York has seemingly hit a halt after there were rumblings that the Jazz and Knicks had agreed on a trade package just last week. Clearly, Ainge is playing hardball and giving his best effort to fleece the Knicks, so anticipate a delay in any official transaction involving the Elmsford, New York native returning to his home region.
In the meantime, all us Knicks fans can do is wait and continue to dream about Mitchell and his potentially huge impact on the basketball scene in New York City. On a more granular level, we can take a look at Mitchell and how he might fit in offensively with the Knicks’ most notable offseason acquisition, Jalen Brunson.
“I really don’t know how it happened. I didn’t dunk in warmups. I just didn’t have any legs.”
Donovan Mitchell (30 PTS) on his nasty dunk over Nikola. pic.twitter.com/ejYQ9kyNm2
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) December 18, 2019
An exciting aspect of a potential Brunson-Spida backcourt is how their overall offensive styles mesh together. With Donovan Mitchell being a volume scorer, it is beneficial that he plays with a point guard who can get him the ball and is used to playing with a ball-dominant offensive talent.
In Utah, Mitchell gelled well with Mike Conley, a crafty floor general who was effective in getting the rock to the Jazz’s scorers like Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson. Jalen Brunson’s game is similar to Conley’s in that he isn’t always looking to be the prime offensive option and is more than willing to defer to more talented backcourt-mates to shoulder the offensive load. Conley was selected to his first All-Star team in 2021, after a 14-year wait, and Mitchell’s presence was definitely a factor in that achievement. It is also worth noting that Mitchell averaged a career-best 26.4 points per game and had his most accurate three-point shooting season (38.6%) in the same year that Conley received his lone All-Star nod, per Basketball-Reference.
Game 4: Monday 9:30pm/et on TNT pic.twitter.com/684eWPxcTW
— NBA (@NBA) May 30, 2021
Pairing Mitchell with a more score-first, alpha point guard oozing with talent like Russell Westbrook or Ja Morant would definitely create more fireworks, however, having a backcourt counterpart like Conley and perhaps soon, Brunson will be more sustainable and better for Mitchell’s game.
When analyzing a potential fit of two players on a team, it is important to take a look at traits and if they can both coexist or if there will be some clashing. Both stand at 6’1″, however, Brunson and Mitchell are markedly different players who don’t really share many strengths or weaknesses offensively. What Brunson lacks in athleticism and explosivity, Mitchell makes up for, and vice versa for what Mitchell lacks in ball handling and passing. This is important to consider when potentially investing so many years and millions in revamping your backcourt.
A knock on Donovan Mitchell is that he hasn’t always been the most efficient scorer and can sometimes be a bit streaky as a shooter. Brunson, who isn’t an elite scorer by any stretch, provides more consistency and is more of a steady offensive threat. While a member of the Mavericks, Brunson wowed many and likely earned himself a bigger bag, showing his ability to step up in their second-round playoff series against Mitchell’s Jazz. With Luka Doncic hobbled, Brunson led the Mavs to a series victory in six games, averaging 27.8 points per game, per Basketball-Reference. If Mitchell is having an off night or not able to give it a go, it is good to know that Brunson is capable of stepping in to be that backcourt scorer that every legitimate competitive team needs on a nightly basis in order to win.
Yeah, I'm excited pic.twitter.com/izXe6TtTEP
— Eli Cohen (@Eli_Cohen3) June 30, 2022
Personality-wise, both guys are great teammates by all accounts who don’t cause drama or find themselves unnecessarily in too many headlines, which is a big deal when having to navigate the New York media. Ego seems to be in check on both sides, which bodes well for the Knicks, who are trying to shake their losing culture and finally not be the laughing stock that they often present themselves as. Inflated egos do not go over well with Knicks fans – just ask Julius Randle. Mitchell and Brunson seem like they will be able to handle the bright lights of New York and become a premier backcourt duo in the NBA.
In summation, there is a lot to like on the offensive end in terms of a potential Brunson-Mitchell duo. I think we could see a symbiotic type of pairing between these two, where they complement each other night in and night out, fortifying the backcourt and making the Knicks a potent offensive unit to go along with R.J. Barrett and whoever remains in the aftermath of a Knicks-Jazz trade.