Although it’s unclear whether or not the Houston Rockets are actively looking to move All-Star guard Russell Westbrook, a shortlist of teams have emerged as possible landing spots for the former NBA MVP. On Friday, The New York Times‘ Marc Stein reported that one of those clubs — the New York Knicks — has discussed a potential acquisition of the 32-year-old.
He further opined that if the franchise is open to absorbing Westbrook’s massive, multi-year salary, a trade could be consummated.
“If the Knicks prove willing to absorb the $130+ million left on Westbrook’s contract to make him their centerpiece, there is a trade to be made,” he tweeted.
“They have weighed it.”
Stein’s report about a possible Knicks/Westbrook pairing comes just days after The Athletic‘s Shams Charania reported that the multi-time league scoring champion and assist king would prefer to leave the Houston Rockets after just one season. The Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers have also been mentioned as teams that could make a play for Westbrook’s services. However, those clubs would essentially have to dismantle their rosters to match salaries in any potential deal.
Houston acquired Westbrook in the summer of 2019 after he had spent more than a decade playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Although he and the club’s entrenched alpha — 2018 NBA MVP James Harden — largely managed to coexist in the same backcourt, the Rockets nonetheless experienced a slight step backward in 2019-20.
They ultimately finished with a 44-28 record and the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoff table. However, it took them seven games to oust the fifth-seeded Thunder, after which they were thoroughly dismantled by the eventual-champion Lakers in Round 2. Since then, the organization has seen massive changes, including the departure of both head coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey.
Meanwhile, the Knicks have largely scuffled through various rebuilding projects since their string of 14 consecutive postseason appearances ended in the early 2000s. Going back to 2002, the team has logged just three winning campaigns. The current iteration of the team boasts a bevy of young former lottery picks, headlined by RJ Barrett, but it continues to languish at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Although he’s entering the back end of his career, Westbrook showed that he is still one of the elite playmakers across the association in ’19-20. As tracked by Basketball-Reference, he averaged 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists per game last season. Barring an injury or some other setback, he would be the clear No. 1 option in New York on day one and the first superstar to suit up for the team since Carmelo Anthony.
The Knicks are one of the few teams league-wide with the ability to take on Westbrook’s contract as well. Per HoopsHype, the franchise is currently locked into just over $82 million in player salary heading into next season.