An intriguing trade between the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks may occur at some point in the near future. It is unclear whether either squad would become substantially better as a result of it, but it would certainly shake the league up a bit.
According to Ian Begley of SNY, the New York Knicks may explore a deal for former NBA MVP, Russell Westbrook.
“Something else to keep an eye on: some agents who represent top point guard free agents believe the Knicks would poke around on a potential Russell Westbrook trade if Houston makes him available,” he wrote.
“It’s worth noting that Westbrook, per sources, saw New York as a welcome landing spot last summer when Oklahoma City was talking to teams about potential trades. Westbrook’s work ethic and drive would have an impact on New York’s young players.
“But the deal — just like a potential Paul trade — would obviously have to make sense for New York. If they are going to take on Westbrook’s contract (three years remaining, third year is a player option, $132 million in total), you’d think that the Knicks would look for an additional asset from Houston.”
The Rockets have been getting progressively further and further away from winning a championship since 2018. That year, Houston came within a single Chris Paul injury of defeating the Golden State Warriors and making to the NBA Finals, where they likely would’ve beaten the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Since then, the organization traded away Paul, brought in Westbrook, and currently figures to be the fifth or sixth best squad in the Western Conference.
The departure of head coach Mike D’Antoni signaled that change was on the horizon for the Rockets. Does that include trading Westbrook? Perhaps.
Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has made it abundantly clear in recent weeks that he is in cost-cutting mode. A big reason why D’Antoni left is because his price wasn’t being met. Based on that, it stands to reason that Fertitta wouldn’t be too pleased with his current salary cap situation.
Houston currently has 10th highest payroll in the league and two of the NBA’s four most expensive players. Westbrook is in the middle of a five-year, $207 million contract. He is owed $41.4 million next season,$44.2 million in 2021-22, and $47.1 million 2022-23. Harden, meanwhile, is due $41.3 million in 2020-21, $44.3 million in 2021-22 and has a player-option worth $47.4 million in 2022-23.
Assuming the Rockets don’t make any adjustments to change up their salary cap situation, by 2022-23 they will be paying just Harden, Westbrook and Eric Gordon $114 million combined. That is a lot of money for a team whose ceiling seems to be fourth place or fifth place in the Western Conference.
The Knicks, meanwhile, have been attempting to sign a big name to their roster for the past 20 years. Aside from Carmelo Anthony and a worsened version of Amar’e Stoudemire, they struck out consistently.
Not exactly how Dwight Howard thought this week would go. https://t.co/owe7bdMtc0
— Game 7 (@game7__) October 14, 2020
Acquiring Westbrook could change that.
Although hating on Westbrook has become fashionable on #NBATwitter, he is actually coming off a great run with the Rockets. Prior to the NBA season getting suspended and his quad flaring up, the 31-year-old was having his best campaign since 2016.
In 2019-20, Westbrook averaged 27.1 points on 47 percent shooting, dished out 7 assists and grabbed 7.9 rebounds per game. While his three point shooting obviously leaves something to be desired, he is an effective enough player to compensate for that when given the opportunity.
The Warriors want their crown back next year. https://t.co/f4GULXOzKH
— Game 7 (@game7__) October 14, 2020
Would he turn the Knicks into a championship team? No, clearly. But he could be a good foundational piece to entice another star.
At the end of the day, it’s not like New York is a favorite to land anyone at this stage. The organization may as well make a small bet on Westbrook and hope that it pans out.
Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t walking through those Madison Square Garden doors any time soon, so the Knicks may as well adjust their expectations accordingly and get whatever talent they can.