Russell Westbrook and the Knicks Are Perfect For Each Other

Liam McKeone
Russell Westbrook and Frankie Smokes
Russell Westbrook and Frankie Smokes / Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
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The Houston Rockets appear to be on the edge of imploding as the week brought an avalanche of news that a whole lot of players are real unhappy within the organization. James Harden was worried if the team could actually compete for a title in the near future. As the cherry on top of the sundae, Russell Westbrook requested a trade. One of the teams linked to the ferocious point guard would be almost too good to be true: the New York Knicks.

Westbrook is perfect for the Knicks. An aging but not yet old superstar. When he's on, he's one of the most exciting players in the league, bar none. The Knicks are all about star power, shiny objects, and flashy play. Westbrook is all of that, from his coast-to-coast slams to his eclectic wardrobe choices. He would reinvigorate Madison Square Garden in ways we haven't seen since Carmelo Anthony's peak in the early part of the 2010s.

It just makes too much sense. The Knicks have two pretty good young players in R.J. Barrett and Mitchell Robinson, but as of now, it doesn't seem either can be the best player on a championship team. They aren't good enough yet to build around. Everyone else on the roster is expendable. Westbrook is on the back nine of his career but he's far from done yet. He will not go quietly into the night and waste away in, like, Charlotte for the next three years as he makes over $40 million a year. Westbrook raging and screaming in the battle against Father Time should be showcased under the lights of what used to be known as Basketball Mecca, not as a malcontent in Houston.

Now, is this a good idea for the Knicks? Perhaps not. This version of the franchise's leadership seems smarter than previous iterations, and they don't seem terribly inclined to send out any draft picks of value for Westbrook, which is what has set the team back in the past. But they still could, and the last thing Knicks fans want is to trade a 2021 unprotected first for Westbrook and watch him get hurt as New York rolls to the worst record in the league and owe a top-three draft pick to Houston. That is a thing that would happen to the New York Knicks. There's also a very solid argument to be made that the organization is better off without any player who could push them into the realm of mediocrity. Being bad for another season and ending up with a top pick in the 2021 draft, which right now looks much stronger than this year's, could be the quicker path to contention and comes along with a much higher ceiling.

But it's still the Knicks. There will be no Manhattan version of Trust The Process here. They aren't going to completely bottom out. If Westbrook can be acquired for players like Kevin Knox and Julius Randle and a top-10 protected first-round pick, why not? It would make Knicks basketball fun again, help reshape the public perception of the organization for both fans and prospective free agents, and make sure James Dolan stays happy because people will pay to go to games. Whenever they can do that. After the last five years of utter ineptitude, even making it as the seven seed with Westbrook running the team would be a breath of fresh air.

The Knicks' path back to relevancy is not through a complete bottoming-out that will see them post horrendous records for consecutive years. Leon Rose, the new Big Man In Charge, seems far more likely to keep the Knicks mediocre while hoping the scouting department does its job well and waiting for the next big free-agent-to-be who wants to be the king of NYC to appear. Then he'll use his connections earned over the years as an agent to make a deal happen. Westbrook would be, at the very least, a supremely entertaining bridge to the next era of Knicks basketball.

There's not a lot to lose here other than the $150-ish million owed to Westbrook over the next three years. And if there's anything Dolan has in spades, it is definitely money. So New York should be doing what they can to bring Brodie in. Because who doesn't want to see Westbrook averaging 30-10-10 again, roaring like a lion under the MSG spotlight?

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