The New York Knicks can afford Bradley Beal, but should they pursue him?

Nathan Solomon
New York Knicks, Marcus Morris
Oct 11, 2019; New York, NY, USA; Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) misses a pass against New York Knicks forward Marcus Morris (13) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Leading the NBA at a whopping 35.4 points per game, Bradley Beal has been one of the major storylines throughout this early NBA season. However, despite the off-season acquisition of Russell Westbrook, Beal’s Wizards sit with the worst record in the league at 3-11. They’ve also lost 10 consecutive games when Beal scores 40 or more points.

In his nine-year tenure in Washington, Beal’s made the playoffs four times and made the conference semi-finals three times. However, he’s failed to ever make it beyond that despite the strong teams with him and John Wall. Now going on three years without a playoff birth, the Wizards are seemingly headed into a rebuild, and it may start with unloading Beal.

Now, trading Beal certainly isn’t a given, but all signs currently point that direction. His contract expires at the end of next season, and he has a player option for the 2022-2023 season. The Wizards don’t seem close to being a competitive team, so it would make sense to trade Beal and enter a massive rebuild.

Could it be the New York Knicks who try and land Beal? The Knicks are looking for another shooter, and they may have the assets the Wizards are looking for in exchange.

What the Knicks have to offer

The Knicks currently have around $16 million remaining in the salary cap and have two first-round picks in this summer’s NBA draft. Beal will make nearly $29 million this season, so the Knicks would have to get a little crafty to create salary space. Beal’s salary increases to $35 million next season, but the Knicks have enough guys entering free-agency this off-season to make it work beyond this year.

To make ends meet, the Knicks would have to free up $13 million in cap space in a trade. A few guards who come to mind as potential trade pieces are Frank Ntilikina, Elfrid Payton, and Dennis Smith Jr. All three have underperformed and are all paid around $6 million per year. Believe it or not, Ntilikina is the third-highest paid Knick at almost $6.2 million.

Another Knick who comes to mind as a potential trade piece is Obi Toppin, the 8th overall pick in this past November’s draft. It’s no secret that Toppin has a giant ceiling, but he doesn’t really fit great in New York. He’s a forward, a position the Knicks have a lot of depth in. Mitchell Robinson and Julius Randle are the team’s two best forwards, and they certainly won’t go to the bench in favor of Toppin. The team also landed a solid back-up forward last off-season in Nerlens Noel, who thrives on both ends. It’s unlikely the Knicks ever run with three bigs in the starting lineup, giving Toppin’s long-term fit a question mark.

So, with Toppin’s tremendous upside, he may be the most desired piece in a potential trade. He’s making around $5 million this season, so trading him with one of the guards mentioned earlier almost makes financial ends meet. The Knicks would need to include one other piece in a trade to stay under the salary cap, another guard, or someone like Ignas Brazdeikas or Taj Gibson.

To potentially give up less in a trade, the Knicks could try and get another team involved. More and more NBA trades are via multi-team deals, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see that happen.

If they can do it for the right price, the Knicks should pursue Bradley Beal. He’s one of the best guards in the league and would give the Knicks the boost needed to make a serious playoff push.