Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Unless they want to renege on agreements with their new free agents, the Knicks can't complete a trade for Russell Westbrook prior to December 15. They only have $4 million in cap space, not close to enough to absorb the $38.5 million he's scheduled to make next season.
It would be incredibly damaging to the Knicks' relationships with agents if they reneged on free-agent agreements to acquire Westbrook, so you can forget about that option.
But there's another reason why you should forget about a potential Westbrook-to-the-Knicks deal. It doesn't align with the current direction of the franchise.
After striking out in free agency, the Knicks signed several short-term deals to give themselves the flexibility to chase a star in free agency or via trade. Westbrook, who ESPN reported is talking with Thunder management about his future, could be available to New York.
But if the Knicks trade for Westbrook alone, how does that acquisition push the them forward in their quest to compete for championships?
Now, if a Westbrook trade leads to the acquisition of another star in his prime (or two), then dealing for the point guard makes more sense.
Westbrook, 30, is a phenomenal player and competitor. He'd make the Knicks infinitely better. But his career timeline doesn't align with the timelines of the club's young core (R.J. Barrett, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, Allonzo Trier). He's also owed $171 million over the next four seasons, with the final year of his deal being a player option. So acquiring Westbrook alone simply doesn't make a lot of sense for the Knicks.
Again, if Westbrook helps you acquire another star without completely gutting your roster (not possible in an in-season trade), then it's a different story.
But after they missed out on stars this summer, the next best step for the Knicks is to develop their young core and remain patient. In a perfect world, that young core improves to the point where they attract free agents or disgruntled stars looking for a new team. It's an approach that requires restraint. A trade for Westbrook would be the opposite of that.
For those interested in potential Westbrook trades: a deal including Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina, Reggie Bullock, Wayne Ellington and Taj Gibson would work financially. As free agent signees, Bullock, Ellington and Gibson can't be traded prior to December 15.
Of course, the Thunder would almost certainly be looking for first-round picks or young talent in such a trade, even more reason for New York to tread carefully.