Rick Pitino tried to convince the Knicks to draft Donovan Mitchell

The Knicks could’ve wound up with Donovan Mitchell, one of the best young guards in the NBA, if they were willing to listen to Rick Pitino.

According to Rick Pitino.

“I tried to get the Knicks to take him, and nah [they said] they can’t take him at that number,” Pitino, Mitchell’s coach at Louisville, said on SiriusXM NBA Radio.

That number was the eighth overall pick in the 2017 draft, during which the Knicks took Frank Ntilikina in the last move made by then-president Phil Jackson before he was let go. Five picks later, the Jazz selected Mitchell, the Elmsford, N.Y. native who has blossomed into a star, being named to the NBA’s All-Rookie first team and the winner of the 2018 Slam Dunk Contest. This year, Mitchell has gotten even better, averaging 24.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists.

“Donovan I knew would be a star in the league,” Pitino said. “I always felt he could play the one. Can he run a pick-and-roll? Without question. Can he get other people shots? Without question. So, I always knew he could play two positions. He’s just a unique personality.”

Ntilikina, averaging 6.1 points and 3.1 assists, has made progress this year, further establishing himself as a quality defender and becoming the Knicks’ starting point guard. But Mitchell is a star, a player who has improved each season, and he grew up in the team’s backyard.

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