The B/R Fantasy League New York Knicks have finally landed a marquee superstar.
On Friday morning, the Knicks acquired 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook in a blockbuster, sending RJ Barrett, Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington, Elfrid Payton, Dennis Smith Jr., the No. 5 pick in Saturday's draft (via the Minnesota Timberwolves) and an unprotected 2021 first-rounder from the Dallas Mavericks.
"The storied Knicks have been lacking a star since Carmelo Anthony," fantasy general manager Alex Larsen said. "I want to make Madison Square Garden a destination for basketball fans night in and night out. Russell Westbrook never takes a play off. He will lead the franchise into a new era where winning is expected and losing is questioned."
New York hasn't made the postseason since 2013. Westbrook will join a roster in flux, with Julius Randle recently traded to Minnesota for Jarrett Culver and James Johnson (but Wednesday, the Timberwolves moved Randle yet again in a two-player trade with the San Antonio Spurs for Rudy Gay). The Knicks also sent veteran shooter Reggie Bullock and a pair of future second-rounders to the Milwaukee Bucks for power forward DJ Wilson and the No. 19 pick.
"Adding Russ will make the Knicks contenders, and the young core of Mitchell Robinson, Jarrett Culver and Kevin Knox will grow around him and adopt his relentless attitude," Larsen added.
Westbrook spent the past season in the backcourt with James Harden after a real-life trade last summer from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Through 53 games, he averaged 27.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists.
Once again, Houston turns the page on an elite point guard after sending Chris Paul to Oklahoma City after two seasons alongside Harden in a real trade.
"With this trade, Houston has extended its run of being an NBA powerhouse for years to come," Rockets general manager Michael Vernon said. "We have gotten younger, more cap-flexible and will not lose one iota of competitiveness. We are excited to add so many quality players around James Harden and Al Horford."
The Rockets, who have struggled with depth, have rebuilt their franchise over the past few days, sending PJ Tucker, Danuel House and a future first to the Sacramento Kings for Marvin Bagley III and Nemanja Bjelica. Vernon agreed to flip Bjelica in a bigger trade to the Philadelphia 76ers for Horford, Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton and a second-round pick. In a deal that won't be executed until the start of free agency, Houston also included Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers, Chris Clemons, Isaiah Hartenstein and Bjelica to Philadelphia.
Vernon wasn't done dealing, turning Bagley and two second-rounders into De'Andre Hunter and a potentially valuable unprotected 2021 first-round pick from the Atlanta Hawks. The Rockets also sent Ben McLemore to the Washington Wizards for Troy Brown Jr. in a separate trade.
So, who will be on the Houston roster alongside Harden? The Rockets have a long list of ball-handling guards, including Barrett, Smith, Payton and Milton. Both Ellington and Korkmaz are well-regarded shooters, Robert Covington remains along with young forwards Hunter and Brown, and Horford with Gibson will fit in nicely at center.
Don't be surprised if Vernon looks to thin out his backcourt or tries to use some of the team's collection of draft picks (No. 5, Hawks' and Mavericks' unprotected firsts in 2021) for another star to round out the roster around Harden and Horford.
Jrue Staying Home
The Bucks thought they had a deal for New Orleans Pelicans veteran guard Jrue Holiday, but Pelicans general manager Preston Ellis took Holiday off the table at the last moment.
Sources close to the Pelicans said the team is hoping to sign Holiday after the NBA moratorium to a four-year extension in the $90 million range. Holiday would opt out of the $27.1 million due for 2021-22 salary, taking a pay cut in the first year for the security of a long-term deal. The UCLA product would be under contract through the 2024-25 season, with an option out in the summer of 2024.
The Pelicans are also hoping to lock in Brandon Ingram, a restricted free agent, and both Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart on long-term extensions.
Veterans Paul and Love on the Move
The Thunder were relatively quiet all week, at least until Thursday, when they sent Paul to the Charlotte Hornets. Additionally, the Cleveland Cavaliers dealt Kevin Love to the 76ers for Harrison Barnes, who was recently acquired from the Kings, and the No. 22 pick.
For Paul, Oklahoma City will get Terry Rozier, Nicolas Batum and the No. 8 pick in Saturday's draft. Batum, who recently opted in to his $27.1 million salary for 2020-21, hopes to revitalize his career with the Thunder. Charlotte also takes on Hamidou Diallo.
Sources close to general manager Joey Akeley said he's eager to get a look at Rozier in the backcourt with emerging young guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
The Bucks, who had hoped to add a veteran like Paul or Holiday, felt they were in the "red zone in talks for CP3," per a well-placed team executive. A three-way deal, with Eric Bledsoe going to the Hawks and Kevin Huerter to Oklahoma City, almost went through. Ultimately, Akeley chose the Charlotte deal built around Rozier over Huerter and other assets.
The Hornets add one of the best point guards of his generation in Paul, but the 35-year-old is due $85.6 million over the next two seasons (although his final year is a player option).
"I guess you get rid of Batum," a real-world Western Conference executive said. "Rozier had a decent year, but the No. 8 pick isn't great. Why take on CP3? Might as well have just paid Kemba [Walker] the money he asked for [last summer]."
Contacts in Charlotte said the team is still looking to move Malik Monk, and while the Hornets are happy to get Paul "back home in North Carolina," they're apparently "open to moving him again if the price is right."
Meanwhile, the 76ers add Love at power forward alongside All-Star center Joel Embiid. The 76ers acquired shooter Buddy Hield and guard Cory Joseph with Barnes on Monday for Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson, Zhaire Smith and a future first-rounder. Philadelphia also has the bounty from Houston in the Horford deal, including Gordon, Rivers and Bjelica. With general manager Ross Schwaber significantly retooling the 76ers without giving up either Ben Simmons or Embiid, he could be in the running for Executive of the Year.
The Cavaliers get a younger forward in Barnes to complement their developing core. General manager Greg Swartz also acquired John Collins from the Hawks on Wednesday, sending Cedi Osman to Atlanta while moving back from the No. 3 pick to No. 6.
Along with the deals mentioned, Thursday was another busy day for the B/R Fantasy League:
The Wizards sent Moritz Wagner, the No. 9 pick and an unprotected 2021 first-rounder to the Chicago Bulls for No. 4 and Luke Kornet.
The Portland Trail Blazers dealt Trevor Ariza, Nassir Little and No. 14 to the Bulls for Thaddeus Young, Chandler Hutchison and the No. 47 pick.
The Boston Celtics traded Carsen Edwards, Javonte Green and No. 30 to the Detroit Pistons for young scorer Luke Kennard.
The Kings sent three picks (Nos. 35, 43 and 52) to the Denver Nuggets for a heavily protected 2021 first-rounder (top 25 through 2022, otherwise converts to a pair of seconds in 2023 and 2024).
Apparently, Sacramento "wanted no part of three second-rounders in a weak 2020 draft," according to those familiar with general manager Grant Hughes' thinking.
The Wizards' move was controversial.
"The Bulls made out," one real-world former Western Conference executive said. "Washington will still be a lottery team next year. And if [Bradley Beal] demands a trade? No thanks."
Washington general manager Cindy Robinson stood by her decision.
"I know many think this draft class is weak, but the top five are solid. Who we have our eyes on would be great for us," Robinson said. "We decided to take the risk but will look to acquire a 2021 first in another trade."
The Warriors had hoped to make a deal similar to Chicago's with Washington, but the Bulls beat them to the punch.
Meanwhile, the Bulls' front office is happy moving forward with their draft flexibility and players they view as good fits in Otto Porter Jr., Tomas Satoransky and Ariza. An executive told B/R, "[Our veterans] can serve as valuable role guys on team-friendly deals, so no rush to get them off our books."
The Timberwolves have come to accept they won't land Devin Booker—not at the Phoenix Suns' asking price.
Teams are still holding out hope that they'll be able to pry CJ McCollum from the Trail Blazers.
Zach LaVine continues to be pursued by several teams, to no avail. "The ask was just too large from Chicago," one general manager said of the Bulls.
Milwaukee is still eager to make a move but isn't considering moving stars Giannis Antetokounmpo or Khris Middleton. It would take the right offer to pry young guard Donte DiVincenzo. Robin Lopez could be had as well, though he would need to opt in to the final year on his contract to be trade-eligible.
Despite holding one of the top records in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets are open to significant changes. Nikola Jokic may be the lone untouchable player. Word is most of the league continues to pester Nuggets general manager Bryan Toporek for Michael Porter Jr., but the team doesn't intend to let him go.
The Memphis Grizzlies are looking for true size to put around Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. After adding Seth Curry and OG Anunoby, Memphis is after targets like Deandre Ayton, Steven Adams and Andre Drummond, if available. The Grizzlies are ready to move on from Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Anderson.
Finally, the Toronto Raptors believed they were on the edge of a deal with the Miami Heat, sending Kyle Lowry to South Beach, but at the last moment, the Heat balked over which young player was available between Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn. The two teams will continue to negotiate. Meanwhile, Pascal Siakam is one player the Raptors will not part with.
Email Eric Pincus at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter, @EricPincus.