Knicks Free Up $40M in Cap Space, But For Who?

Knicks Logo With Portis Payton Gibson

  • The New York Knicks have opened up $40M in cap space by releasing and waiving players on Thursday.
  • New York has been rumored to be going after Russell Westbrook.
  • Now the Knicks are also linked to Gordon Hayward who opted out of his $34M contract in Boston.

The New York Knicks were praised for making the right decisions during Wednesday’s draft. New York picked up College Player of the Year Obi Toppin with the 8th pick of the draft and selected SEC Player of the Year Immanuel Quickley with their 25th pick.

The Knicks continued to make good moves on Thursday. The team announced that they were declining the team option on Bobby Portis ($15.7M) and Theo Pinion ($1.7M). New York also waived veterans Taj Gibson ($10.29M), Wayne Ellington ($8.1M), Elfrid Payton ($8M), and Kenny Wooten.

With those moves, the Knicks have freed up $40M in cap space which they can use to splurge on Friday when the free agency officially begins. New York now has the second-most cap space of any team in the league with only the Atlanta Hawks having more with $44M.

Going After Westbrook?

So now that they have all these money, the next question is who will they spend it on? The Knicks have been linked to Russell Westbrook ever since the news of a fallout between the Rockets and their two All-Star guards. For sure, the Knicks now have the cap space to assume Westbrook’s mammoth three-year $131.5M deal. The next question is do they have the required assets to pull off a trade?

When the Westbrook rumors first came out, it was said that New York coil include the 8th pick of the 2020 NBA draft in a potential Westbrook package. But after stealing Brooklyn native Obi Toppin during Wednesday’s draft, the Knicks may have abandoned the Westbrook plan. Or have they?

Interestingly, Westbrook followed Toppin after the latter was drafted. Now there’s nothing surprising about players following each other on Instagram and Westbrook may be simply trying to play the media. But there could be something to Russell Westbrook’s move to like Obi Toppin’s IG account.

Betting Favorites To Land Russ

The Knicks are the betting favorites to land Westbrook. According to BetOnline.ag, New York is a +275 as the next destination for the disgruntled Rockets superstar. The Magic (+300), Pistons (+325), Hornets (+350), Bucks (+375), and Sixers (+700) round up the top six in the odds board but among the teams, only the Knicks and Hornets have a “verified interest” in trading for Westbrook.

When you look at how these teams drafted, it would appear that the Knicks would be the landing spot for Russ. The Hornets drafted LaMelo Ball with the third pick of the draft and he plays point guard, the same position as Westbrook. Charlotte’s previous prized acquisition was also a guard in Terry Rozier so the Hornets aren’t really shot in Westbrook’s position right now.

On the other hand, the Knicks drafted Toppin, a forward whose game can compliment Westbrook’s. When you take a look at the Knicks’ roster, they have a point guard in Frank Ntilikina and drafted Kentucky’s Immanuel Quickley with the 25th pick of the 2020 NBA Draft. Ntilikina and Quickley are solid guards but neither are in the caliber of Westbrook, love or hate him.

Madison Square Gordon?

With Gordon Hayward opting out of his $34M player option in Boston on Thursday, the Knicks were linked to the former Utah Jazz All-Star forward. Hayward is two years removed from a serious leg injury and he has yet to return to All-Star form after two seasons. However, he surprisingly declined a $34M salary with the Celtics to hit the free agency market. That doesn’t sound normal. Unless Hayward already knows where he is going next.

Rumors are saying it could be New York as the Knicks are one of the few teams with a large cap space this offseason. New York could very well need Hayward’s outside shooting as the team ranked last in the league in three pointers made per game and 4th from the bottom in three-point shooting percentage. Hayward is a career 46/6% three-point shooter who made 1.6 three pointers per game last season. He should provide the Knicks with plenty of outside firepower.

There are a lot of speculation going on around the Knicks, especially with the cap space that they now have. New York is headed to a rebuild. They have stockpiled 2023 draft picks in anticipation of high school players being allowed to turn pro again. They also have a talented young core in Barrett, Toppin, Mitchell Robinson and Kevin Knox. But we know they need a veteran leader to guide them. Who could it be?

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Shane Acedera / Author

Shane grew up watching the Magic & Bird rivalry but ended up rooting for Detroit's Bad Boys team in the 1990s NBA. He loves to tell sports stories and has been writing about sports since high school. When Shane isn't busy jotting down his thoughts, he's just chillin' at home with his wife Rocelle and their two dogs named Horry and Fisher. He recently added a new family member, adopting a handsome retired K-9 named Ranger.