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Rumor: Knicks open to taking big contract like Russell Westbrook

Rockets star Russell Westbrook vs. Knicks

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 02: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Russell Westbrook #0 of the Houston Rockets in action against Frank Ntilikina #11 of the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on March 02, 2020 in New York City. The Knicks defeated the Rockets 125-123. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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The Knicks reportedly could trade for Chris Paul (maybe by sending Kevin Knox and a first-round pick to the Thunder).

If New York wants an expensive but productive point guard on the wrong side of 30, how about the Rockets’ Russell Westbrook?

Apparently, he’s also an option.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

I continue to hear the Knicks are open to taking on a big contract like a Westbrook or a Chris Paul.

The Knicks might want to accelerate their ascent (their normal, and normally foolish, strategy). They have the draft picks and young players to trade for good veterans. By targeting older and more-expensive players, New York can get better players while surrendering fewer assets.

Like Paul, Westbrook – who turns 32 next month and is due $132,932,520 over the next three seasons – fits the profile.

But the big difference between Paul and Westbrook: Oklahoma City appears ready to rebuild, and Houston is trying to contend for a championship around James Harden.

The Knicks’ young players and future draft picks probably won’t help the Rockets win during Harden’s remaining prime nearly as much as Westbrook could. Perhaps, there’s a multi-team trade to be made where New York gets Westbrook, another team gets the Knicks’ assets and that third team sends helpful veterans to Houston. But multi-team trade ideas get complicated – and therefore unlikely – quickly.

Or maybe the Rockets emulate the Thunder from last offseason and trade two stars to start over. Though Tilman Fertitta’s finances raise questions, stripping down also seems unlikely.

The simplest expectation: Houston remains in title pursuit, which means not trading Westbrook for young players, picks or future salary-cap flexibility. (There’s a narrow possibility the Rockets could justify unloading Westbrook to sign someone else with newly created cap space this offseason, especially considering assets from the Knicks could be flipped.)

Westbrook was far from a perfect fit in Houston last season. But he played better once the Rockets went to micro-ball and made him their de facto offensive center. Maybe next season he won’t get coronavirus and injure his quad.

Houston might regret holding onto Westbrook rather than dumping him now. His contract could get ugly.

But that’s just a risk of short-term championship contention.