Could a deal actually happen?
Marc Stein of The New York Times:
The Knicks are on the short list of viable trade destinations for Houston's Russell Westbrook, league sources say
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
They have weighed it
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) November 13, 2020
This would be such a Knicks move.*
Westbrook is 32, facing health concerns and due $132,932,520 over the next three seasons. He’s still a helpful player in the right context, but not nearly good enough to justify the massive costs of acquiring him. Though the Knicks might have more cap space than they know what to do with otherwise this offseason, the downside of Westbrook’s contract would be felt for years.
*Unless New York gets a sweetener. The Knicks treating Westbrook’s contract as negative value to extract assets from Houston could make sense.
After this year’s draft, the Rockets could trade a 2021 first-rounder (the lowest of Houston’s own, Oklahoma City’s or Miami’s) or 2022 first-rounder (Houston’s own). The Rockets could also trade their 2024 and 2026 first-rounders contingent on the picks landing in the top four. Though those 2024 and 2026 picks would be unlikely to convey, they’d at least hold extremely high upside.
Really, even simply dumping Westbrook would likely mean the Rockets take an immediate step back in their championship pursuit. They wouldn’t open salary-cap flexibility to replace his star power, though it’s possible they could spend the mid-level exception on a player who fits better with Harden.
It’s just hard to find a trade that makes sense for both sides. The Knicks, not close to meaningful success, should remain patient. The Rockets, at least on the fringe of title contention, should value immediate contributors.
Generally, Westbrook makes more sense in Houston than New York.
But in reality, where sense doesn’t always prevail, Westbrook’s desire to leave could push the Rockets to make a move. Houston might also want to trim payroll. The Knicks could be desperate to make a splash.
As little sense as this makes, it could happen.