Assessing Knicks’ trade paths to Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown

If you’re Knicks president Leon Rose, do you run it back next season?

Do you think RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin, Quentin Grimes, Mitchell Robinson, etc. can help you take a step forward? Are you willing to bet that internal improvement of those young players, and a full year of Josh Hart, can get you past the second round?

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

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

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

Today, we breakdown the math, pathways and impact of a Brown trade to the Knicks:

What would the Knicks need to give up?

Brown will make $32 million next year. The Knicks would need to send out 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 picks up Miles McBride’s team option, which will happen on June 29 if McBride is not traded).

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

Also worth noting in any trade conversation about the Knicks: Grimes’ 2023-24 salary is $2.4 million. I assume New York would do everything it could to keep Grimes (and Quickley) out of a deal. I also assume that any team making a significant deal with New York would want Grimes and/or Quickley in the trade. From a salary perspective, it’s easy to include Grimes’ $2.4 million in a package that sends out $25 million.

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

**We’re not commenting on the wisdom of trading these players for Brown; we’re just laying out the math involved in making 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. His extension will be worth $318 million in total. So Boston has to decide between paying $600 million to Brown and Tatum or breaking up the duo.

The Celtics have had considerable success in the Brown-Tatum era. They’ve been to three Eastern Conference Finals and one NBA Finals (The Celtics also reached the conference finals in Brown’s rookie season, a year before they drafted Tatum).

But the Marcus Smart trade is a strong signal from management that the status quo wasn’t working. Does that mean Boston wants to break up the Brown and Tatum pairing?

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 it. If things go sideways and Brown or the Celtics want to change course in the future, it should be easy for Boston to trade Brown (*Brown wouldn’t 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, that would set off alarms in Boston. It would be clear then that Brown doesn’t want to be in Boston. So the Celtics, presumably, would seek the best trade offer for Brown and move forward.

Could the Knicks still add players after a Brown trade?

Yes. Depending on the specifics of the trade and any subsequent moves, the Knicks would have access to one of the midlevel exceptions after a Brown trade. So they would have a resource to add other free agents. But they might be handicapped in the future. If the Knicks trade for Brown, you’d assume that they would sign him to another long-term contract. With Brown on the roster alongside other high-salary players, the Knicks could be in a tough place financially. The new CBA has punitive rules in place for teams that spend above a certain threshold, particularly once we get to the 2024-25 season.

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