The NBA had not even officially announced the lifting of the trade moratorium, and the Los Angeles Lakers already were making a move to strengthen their championship roster.
With the trade market expected to open at noon Monday, the defending champs reportedly already have a deal in place to acquire Dennis Schröder from the Oklahoma City Thunder. According to ESPN, the Lakers would send Long Island native Danny Green and the No. 28 overall pick in Wednesday’s draft to the rebuilding Thunder for Schröder, who excelled as a scoring point guard this past season.
With one year and $15.5 million left on his contract, he was expendable for OKC, which is trying to accumulate assets. With this trade, the Thunder will have 16 first-round picks in the next seven drafts.
The Lakers-Thunder trade was the first domino to fall — it cannot be announced until after the Lakers make the pick for the Thunder on Wednesday night — but won’t be the last.
Revenues were down last season and are expected to take another hit this season, with limited or no fans in attendance, and some teams are trying to shed salary. While contenders such as the Lakers are willing to take on high-priced veteran contracts, they are not alone.
The Knicks are among the teams expected to be in talks for some of the stars being shopped. With as much as $42 million in cap space able to be cleared by renouncing their group of team option contracts, they can fit a contract such as Oklahoma City’s Chris Paul or Houston’s Russell Westbrook into their cap space. This is particularly important for the Thunder, who have shopped Paul’s two remaining years at a total of $85.5 million and have little interest in bringing back equal salary.
While the Knicks would be willing to include Julius Randle in a deal for a star, thus shedding the remaining guaranteed year of his contract and the partial guarantee for 2021-22, even without that move, the Knicks are able to take on a big contract.
The Associated Press reported that the deadline to exercise team and player options is 5 p.m. Thursday. The Knicks hold player options on Bobby Portis, Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington, Taj Gibson, Theo Pinson and Reggie Bullock. Bullock is owed only $4.2 million and is expected to be retained.
Knicks president Leon Rose will have hard decisions to make — and with the trade market opening Monday, the NBA Draft being held on Wednesday and free agency beginning Friday, they will come quickly.
Each part of the equation will shift the planning on the others. If the Knicks deal for Paul, it could signal that rather than pursuing a point guard in the draft with the No. 8 pick, they will go after an athletic wing player such as Devin Vassell, Isaac Okoro or Patrick Williams.
But even the Lakers’ deal for Schröder, which makes it likely that they will not bring back Rajon Rondo or Avery Bradley, could trickle down to the Knicks. If Rondo heads for a contending team, that could remove a potential landing spot for Paul or Westbrook.