Proposed 3-Team Blockbuster Sees Knicks Trade Julius Randle, Land 9 Time All-Star

Julius Randle, New York Knicks

Getty Julius Randle, New York Knicks

When it comes to the New York Knicks, there’s no telling what they’re going to do during the free agency period.

For the most part, the Knicks’ front office is one of the more secretive in the NBA, and with cards so close to their chest, it’s always difficult to get a read on what their plans are. But, it’s clear the team is chasing a point guard, and they’re most likely open to offers for Julius Randle too, following a disappointing season.

According to Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz, there is a way the Knicks front office can acquire a point guard while also shedding Julius Randle’s four-year contract in the process, and it even gives the team some young talents to take a closer look at throughout the season.

The trade proposal looks like this;

  • Los Angeles Lakers Receive: PG Ben Simmons, G/F Evan Fournier
  • Brooklyn Nets Receive: PF Julius Randle, C Nerlens Noel, 2027 first-round pick (lottery-protected, via Los Angeles Lakers)
  • New York Knicks Receive: PG Kendrick Nunn, G/F Talen Horton-Tucker, PG Russell Westbrook (to be bought out), 2023 second-round pick (via Los Angeles Lakers)

The primary notion of why the Knicks would get involved in this trade is because it would help reset their cap sheet in 2023, which would allow them to be players during a stacked free-agent market.

The Westbrook Buy-out

Swartz’s proposal is predicated on the notion that the Knicks would buy Westbrook out of his contract, which currently stands to be around $47 million. Of course, as is usually the case with these types of agreements, the Knicks would be hoping that Westbrook leaves some money on the table due to a belief that he could sign a new deal with another team in the league.

“The Knicks should have no interest in Westbrook, but they’d use his expiring deal to help shed the long-term contracts of Randle and Fournier. They aren’t ready to win now and should be prioritizing the growth of RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, and others while freeing up future cap space and adding picks.

Westbrook would be an immediate buyout candidate, with the Knicks looking to shave off whatever they can from his $47.1 million contract. The deal opens up $36 million in cap space ($47 million if Horton-Tucker declines his player option) for New York in the summer of 2023, when James, Zion Williamson, James Harden, Khris Middleton, Fred VanVleet, Jerami Grant, Myles Turner, and others could be available,” Swartz wrote.

Operating under this premise, the Knicks would still be without a starting guard this season, and have little-to-no cap space to pursue a true difference-maker in free agency. However, they would be in a prime position to attempt to land long-term target Zion Williamson the following summer, so perhaps they prioritize a season of in-house development before attempting another big swing at a star free agency acquisition.

Does it Help the Knicks?

While adding and then removing Westbrook from the roster helps the Knicks shed some long-term salary, that doesn’t help them in the immediate. However, Talen Horton-Tucker is an interesting prospect, who at 21-years-old has plenty of untapped potential.

During his three years with the Los Angeles Lakers, Horton-Tucker has averaged 9.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game while coming off the bench and playing alongside multiple ball-dominant superstars. It’s a fair assumption that if given an increased role on a young and upcoming team, Horton-Tucker could become a viable long-term rotation option for the Knicks.

Kendrick Nunn is also a throw-in on this deal and could help fill some bench point guard minutes for New York next season, however, Nunn hasn’t played all season, and despite clearly being a talented player, might not be near his best for at least the first four-to-six months of the season as he gets his legs back underneath him.

Overall, the lure of max cap space when Zion becomes a free agent might be too great of a pull for the front office to resist, especially if they’re nervous about their current long-term contracts paying dividends over the next few years. From a Knicks standpoint, they likely pull the trigger on this deal. And who knows, maybe Westbrook convinces everybody to let him play out the final year of his contract, and he overperforms as players often do during a contract year.



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