The Toronto Raptors have the misfortune of playing in arguably the best division in the NBA, as every team in the Atlantic Division has its eyes set on a deep playoff run. Despite a poor 2021-22 season, the New York Knicks are no exception to that rule.
The Knicks missed the playoffs last season, while Toronto managed to win 48 games and establish themselves as a force in the East. Despite that, the Knicks have one of the game’s best young wings in RJ Barrett, and they decided to compensate him as such before the season began.
The Canadian star inked a long-term extension with the Knicks that will pay him $120 million over four years. With that deal, Barrett becomes the first New York first-round draft pick to sign a multi-year contract with them after the expiration of his initial deal since Charlie Ward.
The Barrett extension is likely going to have ripple effects throughout the division. With the Donovan Mitchell trade market now thrown out of whack and New York signaling a long-term commitment to Barrett, the Raptors need to change how they view the Knicks.
Does the RJ Barrett extension hurt the Toronto Raptors?
In the short-term, the Knicks might find it exceedingly difficult to trade for Mitchell. Not only is Barrett the best asset that had a non-zero chance of being moved in this hypothetical deal, but the poison pill provision in his new contract will make it harder for the Jazz to take on salary.
Without a Mitchell trade, this is still bad news for the Raptors. The Knicks were the one bastion of chaos in an otherwise strong division for the better part of the last decade. After taking some significant strides in the right direction, Toronto might have to deal with a strong franchise building a solid culture.
On top of the fact that the 1% chance Toronto had of luring Barrett back to Canada is now erased, the Raptors now must contend with a core of Barrett, Julius Randle, and Jalen Brunson for the better part of the next half-decade. A deep east just got even tougher to navigate.
The Raptors shouldn’t be too fearful of the Knicks until they prove it on the court, but a Knicks team being run competently presents a unique challenge for Toronto as they try to become a legit contender. With or without Mitchell, Toronto will need to bring their A-game to Madison Square Garden.