Solving their point guard woes will be one of the top priorities for the New York Knicks this summer.
Unless Donovan Mitchell suddenly becomes available, the options are scarce. Jalen Brunson is reportedly the Knicks’ top free-agent target, but there’s also the intriguing possibility of a one-year rental of Los Angeles Lakers’ disgruntled star Russell Westbrook.
The Athletic’s Lakers beat reporter Jovan Buha named the Knicks as one of the potential landing spots for Westbrook this summer via trade, in addition to the Charlotte Hornets, Houston Rockets, and most recently, Indiana Pacers.
“I think New York and in that rumored deal that had initially been in some form of [Evan] Fournier, Kemba [Walker]. Julius Randle seems to be very unhappy there. Is that something that the Knicks would be interested in? I don’t think Russ and Tom Thibodeau, even though Russ, let’s say, isn’t the most interested defender at all times, I think there’s a kind of natural pairing there personality-wise,” Buha said on The Forum Club podcast recently.
The 33-year-old Westbrook averaged only 18.5 points with the Lakers, his lowest since his sophomore season. He failed to adjust to playing the third wheel behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis. A change of scenery in New York where he could have the ball more on his hands and run with the Knicks’ young core could presumably reinvigorate Westbrook.
“Aside from New York, who I think would really be trying to hype up like you know, Russ, Mr. triple-double and him transition on Broadway and stuff like that, the other situations would primarily be financially driven and more of a salary cap, kind of flexibility and sort of asset accumulation [move],” Buha added.
Westbrook will likely opt into his $47 million player option. The Rockets can easily swap John Wall, a Klutch Sports client, but the Lakers were not willing to give up their 2027 first-round draft pick at the trade deadline. After the NBA Draft in June, the Lakers can now also offer their 2029 first-round pick.
Trading for an expiring salary with additional draft assets is the kind of deal the Knicks front office has been leveraging since team president Leon Rose came on board.
While Randle has reiterated his desire to stay in New York, the emergence of Obi Toppin in the Knicks’ final five games could push the Knicks to shop Randle this summer. They could take a hard look at Westbrook and get a future first-round pick in return.
A combination of Randle and Evan Fournier or Randle, Walker, and Alec Burks could match the salaries.
If the Knicks hold on to Randle, Fournier, Walker, Burks, and Nerlens Noel could also do the math. Breaking down Westbrook’s massive expiring contract into four seasoned veterans will give the Lakers shooting and defense, which they lacked this season.
For the Knicks, trading away their veterans would force Thibodeau to finally relent to giving more prominent roles to Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes, Cam Reddish, and Jericho Sims.
At the same time, it will open up a huge salary cap space in 2023 free agency once the Westbrook deal expires.
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