When the Knicks named Leon Rose their team president eight months ago, it was with an eye toward his decades of connections to NBA stars and the hope that he could do what so many have failed to accomplish: bring superstars to Madison Square Garden.
But Rose missed out on the first of those Monday when the NBA officially opened the gates on the trade market. Chris Paul, a longtime client of Rose, was dealt from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Phoenix Suns.
The problem here was not any connection between Rose and Paul but the price tag for the 35-year-old point guard. The Suns sent the Thunder Kelly Oubre, Ricky Rubio, a 2022 first-round pick and guards Ty Jerome and Jalen Lecque.
It was a high price for an aging player with $85.5 million due to him over the next two seasons. But the Suns are in a different place from the Knicks right now — trying to keep their star in place.
Devin Booker signed a five-year, $158 million extension with the Suns last year and has not publicly hinted of leaving, but NBA sources believed that he might push for an exit after this season if the team did not get him help. Now he has Paul in the backcourt and DeAndre Ayton and Mikal Bridges in the frontcourt.
Some NBA sources indicated that Rose had interest in Paul, who would have provided a stabilizing force in the locker room for a young Knicks team that has not been competitive for years. But the interest for the Knicks was believed to be based on whether they could send back Julius Randle and the $23 million he is guaranteed this season or if they could absorb Paul’s contract into their cap space and send out just a spare part such as Dennis Smith Jr.
There still are stars out there for Rose and the Knicks to pursue, such as the Rockets’ Russell Westbrook. But Westbrook is 32, has seven surgical procedures in his background and does not have the leadership reputation of Paul.
The price is believed to be high for Westbrook, too, and with a star-filled free-agent class next summer, the Knicks are hoping to retain cap flexibility. Even before that market opens, they want to have trade assets if one of those prospective free agents is placed on the trade market.
The Knicks have little that would be attractive to other teams right now if they aren’t willing to part with RJ Barrett or Mitchell Robinson. So far, they have not been.
The more likely deals for the Knicks would be in Wednesday’s NBA Draft, in which they hold the Nos. 8, 27 and 38 picks.
The prospect of moving up into the top three seems unlikely. They were not a part of workouts for LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman or Anthony Edwards, and Wiseman said Monday that he had not even had a phone call from the team.
But with many NBA team officials of a mind that the talent is evenly split from the range of Nos. 5 to 15, the Knicks could be willing to move down to bring in more assets or to combine picks to move up from 27.
The latest word is that the team is leaning toward one of the wings who are highly regarded — Florida State’s duo of Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams, Auburn’s Isaac Okoro or, if he slips, Dayton forward Obi Toppin. While they have interest in Alabama’s Kira Lewis and Killian Hayes, who played in Germany, they could wait until their second pick in the first round to grab a point guard.