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Report: Knicks finalizing four-year extension with RJ Barrett, taking him out of Mitchell talks

Brooklyn Nets v New York Knicks

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 06: RJ Barrett #9 of the New York Knicks shoots the ball during the second half against the Brooklyn Nets at Madison Square Garden on April 06, 2022 in New York City. The Nets won 110-98. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

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Leon Rose’s Knicks have broken one of the franchise’s worst patterns: For the first time since Charlie Ward in the mid-90s, they are paying to keep their best young talent in house — signing a player on a rookie contract to a multi-year contract extension — and not trading him for an older veteran.

The Knicks are finalizing a deal to sign wing RJ Barrett to a four-year, up to $120 million extension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The big news from this extension is it takes Barrett off the table in any Donovan Mitchell trade talks.

After he signs this extension, Barrett can’t be traded until Jan. 15, and has veto power over any trade for a year. More importantly, the poison pill means Barrett’s outgoing salary would be $10.9 million, but for the incoming team it’s $26.2 million, a dramatic imbalance that would force a third team into the deal if there was one at the deadline. The Knicks can still trade picks — unprotected first-round picks have been the sticking point — and other players such as Obi Toppin or Quentin Grimes can be in the deal for Mitchell, but Barrett is off the board. How much the Jazz wanted Barrett depends on who you asked.

We don’t know the parameters of the extension yet, but that $120 million number probably includes unlikely incentives (Ian Begley reports there are All-Star, All-NBA and All-Defensive Team incentives). It will be interesting to see the actual guaranteed money number, but it is likely closer to what the Knicks just paid Jalen Brunson at $104 million over four years.

Barrett averaged 20 points a game last season at age 21, he’s able to create his own shot in isolation and can finish at the rim. His potential is unquestioned, but the Knicks want more playmaking and efficiency out of him — if Barrett’s jumper improves (34.2% from 3 last season, but not a great perimeter shooter off the bounce yet) and if he can set up teammates better he can be an elite offensive force. Defensively he can be a pest but still learning how to use his athletic skills.

The fact the Knicks kept a first-round pick (No. 3 overall) is a good sign for the organization. Rose continues to make smart moves, if not the bold ones Knicks fans want.

Although that could still be coming. The Mitchell trade isn’t dead, the deal just changed and Barrett is staying in NYC.