Assessing the Knicks’ trade routes to Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown

If you are the president of the Knicks Leon Rosewill you relaunch it next season?

Do you think RJ Barrett, Emmanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin, Quentin Grimes, Michael Robinson, etc. can help you take a step forward? Are you willing to bet that the internal improvement of these young players, and a full year of Josh Hartcan you pass the second round?

Or are you trading some of those young players and draft picks for an established star? There could be several big names in the trade market this season. Karl-Anthony Towns, Damian Lillard, Zion Williamson, Joel Embiid, Jaylen Brownetc

Starting Friday, you can include up to eight first-round picks in a trade. So you have the capital project to make a competitive offer. And your young players – Barrett, Grimes, Quickley, Robinson – have improved their commercial value since last summer. This gives you the opportunity to put together a compelling trade package for a top player.

With that in mind, we’ll be looking at potential trade details for top players over the next two weeks. We started with Towns, Williamson and Bradley Beal (who appears to be headed for the Phoenix Suns), and we’ll be looking at Embiid, Lillard and others.

Today we break down the math, pathways and impact of a Brown trade on the Knicks:

What would the Knicks need to give up?

Brown will earn $32 million next year. The Knicks would have to send at least $25 million to satisfy league trade rules. They can do this in a number of ways (our scenarios include the assumption that New York takes over Miles McBrideteam option, which will take place on June 29 if McBride is not traded).

If the Boston package includes Evan Fournier, New York is expected to send an additional $8 million as part of the deal. A package including Fournier, Toppin, Sims of Jericho and multiple first-round picks would work. That would allow Boston to lose salary in 2023-24 and 2024-25, when Fournier’s contract expires. If the Celtics want Barrett, the Knicks would send a package including Barrett, Quickley and draft compensation would work.

Also of note in any Knicks trade conversation: Grimes’ salary in 2023-24 is $2.4 million. Guess New York would go out of their way to stop Grimes (and Quickley) from making a deal. I also assume that any team making a big deal with New York would want Grimes and/or Quickley in the trade. Salary-wise, it’s easy to squeeze Grimes’ $2.4 million into a package that sends $25 million.

Sure, the Knicks can send over $25 million in a trade for Brown. But we’d assume Boston wants to take back less pay to improve its flexibility and avoid any punitive measures in the new collective bargaining agreement.

** We do not comment on the wisdom of trading these players for Brown; we are only laying out the calculations needed to make the trade work.

Why would he be traded?

Brown was named to an All-NBA team this season. That makes him eligible for a “supermax” extension this offseason. For Brown, the extension would be worth $290 million over five years. Jayson Tatum will also be eligible for a supermax extension next summer. Its extension will be worth a total of $318 million. Boston must therefore decide between paying Brown and Tatum $600 million or breaking up the duo.

The Celtics enjoyed considerable success under the Brown-Tatum era. They made three Eastern Conference Finals and one NBA Finals (the Celtics also reached the Conference Finals in Brown’s rookie season, a year before Tatum’s draft).

But the Smart Marcus the trade is a strong signal from management that the status quo was not working. Does this mean Boston wants to break up Brown and Tatum?

If I had to guess, my answer would be no.

The most likely scenario is Brown signing the supermax extension this summer. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes in his essential offseason guide, 11 of the 12 players offered the supermax have signed him. If things go wrong and Brown or the Celtics want to change course in the future, it should be easy for Boston to trade Brown (*Brown would not be eligible to be traded during the 2023-24 season if he signs the supermax extension).

If Brown bucks the trend and decides to decline the supermax extension, it would set off alarm bells in Boston. It would then be clear that Brown does not want to be in Boston. So the Celtics, presumably, would seek the best trade deal for Brown and move forward.

Could the Knicks still add players after a trade with Brown?

Yes. Depending on the specifics of the trade and any subsequent moves, the Knicks would have access to one of the mid-tier exceptions after a Brown trade. So they would have a resource to add more free agents. But they might be disabled in the future. If the Knicks trade for Brown, you’d assume they’d sign him to another long-term contract. With Brown on the roster alongside other high-paying players, the Knicks could be in dire straits financially. The New CBA has punitive rules in place for teams spending above a certain threshold, especially once we get to the 2024-25 season.

Just food for thought as you ponder what the Knicks should — or shouldn’t — do this offseason.

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