As a general rule, NBA teams are hesitant to trade young, homegrown talent. This is particularly true if said talent was undervalued by the rest of the league. When executives find gems late in the first round, anywhere in the second or on the scrap heap, they get attached. These players’ successes reflect well on their teams’ scouting and development programs. Often they are diligent workers and beloved teammates, the kind of guys that bring good vibes to the practice facility and become fan favorites.

Almost every team is obsessed with drafting and developing well, though, in part because this allows you to trade for stars. Typically, when a player like Donovan Mitchell is on the trade market, he will not be swapped for another multi-time All-Star at a similar stage of his career. He’ll be swapped for draft picks and younger, cheaper players who could potentially turn into All-Stars one day.

Enter 22-year-old Quentin Grimes. He’s a 6-foot-4 wing with a 6-8 wingspan, and the New York Knicks selected him No. 25 in the 2021 draft. He averaged six points, two boards and one assist in 17 minutes as a rookie, with 40-38-68 shooting splits. These numbers do not suggest future stardom, nor do they suggest that he should be off-limits in trade talks. And yet the Knicks have reportedly taken a firm stance when negotiating with the Utah Jazz: Grimes is off limits. 

In an interview with ESPN 700, The Athletic’s Tony Jones said that New York is willing to part with 24-year-old big Obi Toppin in a Mitchell deal, but Utah wants Grimes:

“The one player that [the Knicks] are trying not to put in the deal is Quentin Grimes. They don’t want Quentin Grimes in the deal under any circumstance. And the No. 1 player that the Jazz want in the deal is Quentin Grimes. And I get the sense that the Jazz are really hesitant to do a deal that doesn’t have Quentin Grimes in it. I can tell you that the Knicks are amenable to giving the Jazz Obi Toppin, who’s a really young and high-energy, high-ceiling power forward, but Quentin Grimes is a major sticking point at this point.”

If your take on this information is an incredulous, “Sure, this guy with a 14.9 percent usage rate is why the Knicks haven’t traded for Mitchell, whatever you say,” then you might want to punctuate it with a Rodrigue Beaubois reference. In February 2010, leading up to the trade deadline, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said that a rookie Beaubois — the No. 25 pick, just like Grimes — was “pretty much untouchable.” 

“There’s maybe one or two guys in the league that I would trade him for,” Cuban said. “That’s it.”

Beaubois had an encouraging rookie year, including a 40-point game in March, but his progress stalled when he broke his foot the following summer. He needed another surgery on the same foot after his second season, and, since breaking his hand in 2013, his fourth and final season with the Mavericks, Beaubois has been playing in Europe. I was a big Beaubois guy, but I admit he should never have been untouchable. At All-Star weekend in 2011, the Knicks had a late-night meeting with the Denver Nuggets to negotiate a Carmelo Anthony trade. Anthony himself was in the meeting, along with his then-agent, Leon Rose, who is now New York’s team president. The Knicks and Nuggets had been talking since the previous summer, but this was different: Anthony watched the two sides haggling over picks and players. One of them was rookie center Timofey Mozgov, who weeks earlier had scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in a win against a dysfunctional Detroit Pistons team, prompting fans at Madison Square Garden to chant his name down the stretch.

Mozgov had appeared in 34 NBA games and was averaging 4.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 0.7 blocks in 13.5 minutes. Aside from that Pistons game, he had only scored in double figures once. But the Nuggets contingent, led by then-GM Masai Ujiri, insisted on getting him. “We want Mozgov, that was the deal,” Anthony recalled on ESPN’s “The Woj Pod,” laughing. “Timofey Mozgov. Mozgov was the dealbreaker in the New York trade.” The Knicks eventually relented, but they managed to hang onto rookie wing Landry Fields.

With the knowledge that Mozgov would top out as a solid role player and a mysterious nerve injury would derail Fields’ playing career, those negotiations seem silly. Years from now, it might seem equally silly that New York and Utah, two logical partners for this particular blockbuster, were hung up on a guy for whom looked excellent at summer league counts as perhaps his biggest professional accomplishment.

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