Home Sports Headlines Knicks feel ‘less inclined’ to trade for Russell Westbrook and his massive salary, looking for long-term cap flexibility

Knicks feel ‘less inclined’ to trade for Russell Westbrook and his massive salary, looking for long-term cap flexibility

by Ryan

Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook

After three days of free agency, the Knicks still have $18 million in cap space. And it doesn’t seem like they’re in a hurry to use it.

Even after Sunday’s Ed Davis trade, teams were under the impression that the Knicks remain open to providing cap relief to general managers looking to offload salary.

They’ve already done it twice in separate transactions with veteran Ed Davis, acquiring three second-round picks and two young players (Jacob Evans and Omari Spellman).

Depending on how the Charlotte-Gordon Hayward signing plays out, the Knicks could help the Hornets shed any salary needed to complete the transaction via sign-and-trade. Of course, New York would want to acquire an asset from either Charlotte or Boston in exchange for providing the cap relief.

The Knicks could also sit tight during the rest of the free agency period and use the cap space at the trade deadline to absorb a contract from a team looking to clear money in free agency.

In 2019, the Knicks were the team looking to offload salary. They traded Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas and included the contracts of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee in the deal. That gave them enough cap space to sign two max free agents. (Which didn’t’ work out so well.)

The 2021 free agent class is a deep one. So at least one team should be looking looking to shed salary at the deadline.

Will New York spend the $18 million in cap space on a free agent? It could happen. Things change quickly in free agency.

But opposing teams are under the impression that they’re in no rush to do so.

They already have 16 players under contract.

There’s still the possibility of a Russell Westbrook trade. But New York signed Elfrid Payton and Austin Rivers (who can play on and off the ball) in free agency. The Knicks also have Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina and Immanuel Quickley on the roster.

That roster composition suggests that they aren’t interested in a Westbrook trade.

And some people in touch with the Knicks recently got the sense that they were less inclined to take on a significant salary like Westbrook’s, which would impact their future cap space (*that sense aligns with their hesitancy to match Charlotte’s 4-year, $120 million offer to Hayward).

The way things unfolded in free agency, it seems like maintaining financial flexibility was important for New York in Leon Rose’s first offseason.

You may hate the approach. You may appreciate it. But when the dust settled, Rose didn’t feel that the time was right to make a long-term financial commitment to a player in his prime like Hayward or, presumably, Westbrook.

Based on what we’ve seen over the past few days, New York is taking a patient approach in Year 1 under Rose. That could mean another long season for the Knicks in 2020-21. Based on current roster composition, it seems like the young Knicks (RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, etc.) will have an opportunity to play a ton and learn on the job. That hasn’t been the case in year’s past.

Obviously, fans looking for a big acquisition in the 2020 offseason were disappointed with the first few days of free agency. The Knicks should have another chance to land a star in the summer of 2021. New York can have significant cap space that summer and will have two first-round picks in what should be a strong draft. (In all, they have eight first-round picks and 11 second-round picks in the next six drafts)

So the waiting game may continue for long-suffering Knicks fans. But Rose & Co. didn’t do anything in free agency that the franchise may regret in a couple years. That alone seems like a step in the right direction.

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