The New York Knicks have spent much of its first offseason under new team president Leon Rose increasing its youthful core, obtaining draft capital, and providing a clear vision for building a future contender.
Considering how the franchise has been run for much of the last 20 years, however, the possibility will always exist this offseason that they will make a splash that directly conflicts with said vision.
This year, it’s the possibility of using its expansive cap space to take on the bloated contract of a veteran player to bring a shred of immediate legitimacy to a younger, more inexperienced roster while possibly nabbing some more draft capital in the process.
In recent weeks, a prime trade candidate that has been linked to the team is Houston Rockets superstar point guard Russell Westbrook, who has three years and approximately $132 million remaining on his current contract.
At 32 years old, the 12-year veteran and nine-time All-Star is a direct contradiction to what the Knicks have been about this season — taking up over $40 million this year to develop the team into a fringe playoff contender.
He would also provide a veteran presence in a role that the Knicks have lacked for decades: A franchise point guard, even if it is during the second half of his career and for just a few seasons.
Needless to say, it has a majority of the basketball world split. But Knicks insider Ian Begley reported that the Westbrook-to-New York speculation is slowing down — gaining insight from the recent four-year, $120 million deal Gordon Hayward signed with the Charlotte Hornets.
“It looks like the Knicks were unwilling to commit long-term money there because they wanted to keep their books clean,” Begley said. “I think the same applies here for Russell Westbrook at the moment. Some people in touch with the Knicks earlier this week thought the Knicks were less likely now to trade for Westbrook and the three years in his deal than they were prior to the draft.”
Currently, the Knicks’ point-guard situation features Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina, and newly-acquired Austin Rivers, who signed a team-friendly three-year, $10 million deal on Monday.