Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
We'll never know if the Knicks were interested in trading for Russell Westbrook. They never had the chance to make an offer.
The Rockets and Thunder stunned the league on Thursday by agreeing to a deal that moved Westbrook to Houston in return for a package that included Chris Paul and first-round picks, per ESPN.
The Knicks didn't have the money to match salaries in a Westbrook trade at the moment. They would have had to wait until Dec. 15 to include the free agents they signed the summer in a deal.
The Thunder probably had no interest in waiting that long to trade the former MVP.
Westbrook had a short list of teams he was interested in being traded to, per ESPN. Houston and Miami were believed to be on the list.
What about the Knicks?
In the immediate aftermath of he and Oklahoma City talking about potential trades, Westbrook viewed the Knicks as a potential suitor, per SNY sources. It's unknown if New York was on the ultimate list of teams Westbrook communicated to the Thunder. But, as stated above, the Knicks wouldn't have been able to trade for Westbrook during the summer.
If OKC opted to wait to trade Westbrook during the season, would New York have been interested? That's unclear. Though there were at least some members of the organization who were lukewarm on the idea.
Westbrook, 30, is a phenomenal player and competitor. He'd make the Knicks infinitely better.
But we detailed here why Westbrook coming to the Knicks -- without the assurance of another star -- didn't make a lot of sense for New York.
If the Knicks traded for Westbrook, they would have owed him $171 million over the next four seasons. That would have impacted the Knicks ability to afford free agents in the summer of 2021. That summer's free agent class may include Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Paul George, Bradley Beal, CJ McCollum and, potentially, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Knicks will likely have the cap space for a max free agent that summer.
They have only three players under guaranteed contracts for the 2021-22 season (RJ Barrett, Julius Randle (not fully guaranteed) and Kevin Knox).
They may opt to give Mitchell Robinson a big contract that summer and could have to commit significant money to Allonzo Trier and/or Damyean Dotson. They also have a team option on second-rounder Iggy Brazdeikis. But, even if they sign Robinson, Trier and Dotson to bigger deals, the Knicks could still have enough money for a max free agent. Trading for Westbrook would've made finding cap space for a max player more difficult.
As has been stated previously, it would be foolish for New York to fixate on free agency two summers from now. The best approach for New York is to focus on building its young core, which includes Barrett, Knox, Robinson and Trier.