Knicks Can Form Big 3 With LeBron James Trade: Report

Lakers superstar LeBron James defends Knicks star Jalen Brunson

LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends against Jalen Brunson #11 of the New York Knicks.

The New York Knicks front office’s savvy management of their salary cap and hoarding draft assets have positioned themselves to acquire a superstar should he become available this summer.

According to ESPN, New York has the flexibility to form a Big 3 of LeBron James, Jalen Brunson and OG Anunoby this summer as the Knicks are better equipped than the Golden State Warriors, who registered interest at the trade deadline, should the Los Angeles Lakers superstar become available.

James could opt-in to his contract and then work out a trade, but Golden State would not be allowed to send out aggregate contracts if James’ $51.4 million salary pushed the Warriors over the second apron.

The Knicks, however, have the financial flexibility below both aprons to trade for James without losing Jalen Brunson and OG Anunoby.

New York has five players (Julius Randle, Josh Hart, Mitchell Robinson, Bojan Bogdanovic and Donte DiVincenzo) earning a salary between $11.5 and $30.3 million. They also have up to eight tradable first-rounders to include in a deal.

James fanned speculations about a potential move to the Knicks in the future in the days leading up to the February 8 trade deadline from cryptic X posts to flexing the Knicks towel in a postgame interview after a Lakers win in New York.

He even told New York reporters that playing for the Knicks once crossed his mind.

“During my free agency period in 2010, it was one of the teams that I looked at,” James told reporters on February 3. “So I’ve had that thought in my career.”

LeBron James Calls Jalen Brunson ‘Phenomenal’

Before their February 3 meeting at Madison Square Garden in which the Lakers beat a shorthanded Knicks team 113-105, James praised Brunson, who transformed from a second-round pick into an All-Star point guard.

“He’s phenomenal, James told reporters when asked about Brunson. “Super happy for him, super proud of him. First-time All-Star. Seen his emotion after the last game I think that’s just super cool. Super dope, very humble kid. I played against Rick [Brunson] as well. So kind of weird in that sense.”

James has a $51.4 million player option for next season which he needs to either pick up or decline by June 29.

Knicks Have Not Discussed Adding LeBron James

According to a report from The Athletic on February 14, the Knicks management did not respond to James’ overtures nor hatch a plan for a potential move.

Despite all the focus on James’ recent trip to New York, where he sent all sorts of pro-Knicks signals that sparked speculation about that Broadway-worthy possibility, a league source indicated the Knicks’ brass has not discussed the prospect of adding James. Not only does the team lack the requisite salary cap space necessary to make room for James this summer, but the idea of the Knicks making moves to free up that sort of money would be seen internally as a serious setback to their long-term plan. While that could always change, it’s telling that the Knicks didn’t respond to James’ myriad messages by heading straight for the proverbial war room to figure out a plan to bring him to the Big Apple.

Without cap space, the Knicks’ only pathway to acquire James is via sign-and-trade.

According to the same ESPN report, James can sign for the maximum allowed within the over-38 rule — a $167 million, three-year deal or a shorter $104 million 1+1 deal (player option on second year).