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5 big-money players who could be available after getting eliminated from the playoffs

The Knicks should only consider trading for some of these guys, but they’ll inevitably be linked to most.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Houston Rockets - Game Seven
Should the Knicks try to trade for one of these fellas? It’s a question, that’s for sure.
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The teams that have already been eliminated from the playoffs must now evaluate their rosters, and, like it or not, the Knicks will surely be linked to a number of the major names that might become available, including Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Victor Oladipo.

Let’s explore which of these five well-known lads with large contracts the Knicks should consider trying to trade for.

Chris Paul

CP3 is owed over $41 million next season and more than $44 million in 2021-22. He’ll be 37 when his contract expires.

Veteran readers already know: the Knicks should not go after Chris Paul.

Sure, he’s an all-time great who led the Oklahoma City Thunder to an almost-upset of the Houston Rockets in this year’s playoffs, and he used to be represented by new Knicks president Leon Rose. But the Thunder are looking to rebuild, and with contenders like the Milwaukee Bucks desperate to add a piece like Paul, the price tag is going to get hefty.

Of course, rumor has it the Knicks are already preparing an offer for CP3, so we’ll see how that goes.

Verdict: Unless the Knicks can convince the Thunder to a trade that doesn’t include multiple draft picks and every promising young prospect on the roster, New York should pass.

Russell Westbrook

Russ is on the books for three more seasons, and he’ll make over $47 million in the final year of his deal. He’ll be 34 when his contract expires.

A few years ago, there would have been no one better to add to the Knicks than Russell Westbrook. Madison Square Garden would have praised his perpetual motor and accepted his middling mid-range jumpers. He alone could have catapulted the club to some semblance of consistency, and probably a record of around .500.

This season, Westbrook was still quite good as James Harden’s second-in-command, with averages of 27 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. But he melted in the playoffs and seems to be in a transitional stage of his career. Meanwhile, he’s on the wrong side of 30 and has a history of knee issues. Plus, his contract is more of an albatross than an actual albatross.

Falklands, Malouines, Ile de Saunders, Albatros A Sourcils Noirs (Thalassarche melanophrys)
Westbrook’s contract or an actual albatross?
Photo by Sylvain CORDIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Verdict: The Knicks should make like John Stockton and pass.

Victor Oladipo

Oladipo is owed $21 million next season. After that, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent. He’ll be 29 when he hits free agency, but is coming off a serious injury.

Oladipo apparently wants out of Indiana, but before you go customizing a blank New York jersey with his name, you should be aware that according to reports he’s looking for the “most money possible” and would prefer to go to a contender.

The Knicks are not currently contenders, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be rumors that the franchise is eyeing Oladipo as a possible trade target.

Oladipo returned this year from a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee suffered last season, and his stats suggest a player still trying to get his groove back. In 19 games this season, Oladipo’s numbers were down across the board, but the rustiness should come as no surprise considering his injury.

It wouldn’t hurt to give the Pacers a call, but the Knicks would probably have to give up a decent haul to get Oladipo, who would become a free agent after next season anyway. And do the Knicks want to give a max contract to someone who is still working his way back from a major injury and isn’t even guaranteed to stay with the franchise for more than one season?

Verdict: The Knicks should make an exploratory call and try to gauge the asking price and Oladipo’s interest in New York. But ultimately, they should probably pass.

Tobias Harris

Harris is on the hook through 2023-24, and he’ll be paid more than $39 million that season. When his current contract ends, he’ll be 32.

It was weird when the Philadelphia 76ers first gave Harris his megadeal, and so far the move has only looked worse with time.

He’s a solid wing who should not be entrusted with too much of the offensive load, and while his numbers this year look pretty tantalizing — almost 20 points a game on 47% from the field and 37% from three, plus 7 rebounds and 3 assists — he doesn’t feel like an impact player.

At the money he’s being paid, any team employing Harris should be able to count on him getting a bucket when it matters, but he hasn’t shown that ability. It’s not even clear that he’s a suitable third piece on a team with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

Verdict: He’s not worth his current contract, and the Knicks should not even really consider trading for him unless it’s in a deal that also brings back Simmons or Embiid, or a boat load of draft picks. And that’s probably not happening.

Eric Bledsoe

Bledsoe is under contract through 2022-23, and he’ll make more than $19 million in the final year of the deal. He’ll be 33 when he enters unrestricted free agency in 2023.

Bledsoe is a solid NBA veteran who will be entering the 11th season of his career next year. In three years as a complimentary piece to Giannis Antetokounmpo, he’s posted 16 points a game on 43% from the field and 31% from deep, plus 4.6 boards and 5.4 assists.

He’s not great, but he’s pretty good, and solid NBA veterans are just what the Knicks need. The Bucks will be looking to improve their roster so they can retain Giannis once he hits free agency after next season. Could the Knicks entice them with a deal built around Julius Randle?

Randle would provide the Bucks with a solid playmaker who can handle the offensive load sometimes. Meanwhile, Bledsoe would give the Knicks a playmaking guard who doesn’t need to be the entire offense. And his salary isn’t so burdensome that it would preclude the franchise from making other moves.

Verdict: A Randle-for-Bledsoe deal would be welcome news for Knicks fans, but there’s no guarantee that such a move would calm the nerves of Giannis. The Knicks should call Milwaukee and make sure to highlight how Randle led New York in points and rebounds this season.