The Knicks busy offseason has continued in recent weeks, as the team has engaged with the Lakers about a potential trade that would send controversial point guard Russell Westbrook to New York.
Shams Charania of the Athletic reported the rumors, and listed the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics as other teams interested in a trade for Westbrook.
Any deal to the Knicks would likely revolve around power forward Julius Randle, and end in the team buying out the remainder of Westbrook’s expiring contract in a cap space-saving move.
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Westbrook is slated to make around $47 million next season on the last year of his current deal, while Randle is under contract for 4 more years (with a player option in the final year), and make around $26 million per year on average.
Under NBA rules, teams that are bumping up against the salary cap cannot swap players without their contracts being nearly equal to one another in any given year, so the Knicks would have to include other assets — such as Evan Fournier, who is set to make around $18 million next season.
A trade that sent Randle to Los Angeles in exchange for Westbrook would give the team financial flexibility (particularly if they mutually agreed to a buy-out), as Randle will be a burden on their cap space for several years, whereas Westbrook will hit free agency after the coming season.
Randle helped propel the Knicks to the playoffs in the 2020–21 season (for the first time since 2013), but notably regressed last year in nearly every major statistical category. Last season, when the Knicks missed postseason contention, Randle averaged 20.1 points, 5.1 assist and 9.9 rebounds.
Westbrook, meanwhile, has fallen from grace in his NBA career — as he previously won the MVP award, and has been named to 9 All-Star games.
After beginning his career with 8 seasons in Oklahoma City, however, he has bounced around the league, including stints with the Wizards and Rockets, before landing with LeBron James on the Lakers.
He has not fit in well with the team, though, and was a major point of contention in the Lakers’ lackluster 33–49 season, when they missed the playoffs. He averaged 18.5 points, 7.1 assists and 7.4 rebounds last year, while shooting an inefficient 44.4% from the field.
Any trade would likely occur after the situation with Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz is resolved — as the Knicks are in talks to acquire the All-Star guard from Utah, which would require them to send significant assets, including young players, away in any deal.
One of those assets may be Obi Toppin, the team’s 1st round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, who’s skillset overlaps with Randle.
If the team keeps Toppin (either by keeping him out of the Mitchell trade, or that deal falling through entirely), then they would be more inclined to rid themselves of Randle, in an effort to give Toppin more minutes on the court.