The New York Knicks point guard troubles will be one of their main focuses this summer. Unless Donovan Mitchell becomes available on the spur of the moment, the possibilities are limited.
The Knicks’ primary free-agent target is reportedly Jalen Brunson, but there’s also the fascinating potential of a one-year rental of disgruntled Los Angeles Lakers star Russell Westbrook.
Along with the Charlotte Hornets, Houston Rockets, and most recently, Indiana Pacers, The Athletic’s Lakers beat reporter Jovan Buha identified the Knicks as a potential trade destination for Westbrook this summer.
Westbrook, 33, had his lowest scoring average since his sophomore season with the Lakers, averaging 18.5 points per game. He struggled to fit in behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis as the third wheel.
Westbrook is expected to be re-energized by a change of atmosphere in New York, where he will have more time with the ball and will be able to run with the Knicks’ young core. Westbrook is expected to exercise his $47 million player option.
The Rockets could easily swap John Wall, a Klutch Sports client, but the Lakers refused to part with their 2027 first-round lottery pick at the trade deadline. The Lakers can now offer their 2029 first-round pick after the NBA Draft in June.
Since team president Leon Rose took over, the Knicks front office has been leveraging trades for expiring salaries in exchange for greater draft assets. While Randle has stated his desire to remain in New York, the Knicks’ decision to trade Randle this summer could be influenced by the emergence of Obi Toppin in the team’s final five games.
They might give Westbrook a hard look in exchange for a future first-round pick. The salaries could be matched by a combination of Randle and Evan Fournier or Randle, Walker, and Alec Burks.
If the Knicks keep Randle, Fournier, Walker, Burks, and Nerlens Noel, they’ll be in good shape. The Lakers will gain shooting and defense by breaking down Westbrook’s enormous expiring deal into four seasoned players, which they lacked this season.
Trading away the Knicks’ veterans would force Thibodeau to eventually capitulate and give Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes, Cam Reddish, and Jericho Sims more important roles.
At the same time, after Westbrook’s contract expires in 2023, it will free up a significant amount of salary cap room.