Rumors of the New York Knicks acquiring Karl- Anthony Towns have swirled around the rumor mill for the past six months. But those rumors have gotten louder recently. On Tuesday, Michael Rand of the Star Tribune opined that a deal might become more of a reality if the Miami Heat eliminates the Knicks in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoff series.
NBA Trade Rumors: Karl-Anthony Towns Could End Up With the New York Knicks This Summer
Facing elimination, New York stayed alive in the playoffs with a 112-103 victory over Miami as Jalen Brunson, RJ Barrett, and Julius Randle combined for 88 points, 21 rebounds, and 14 assists. The Knicks still face an uphill battle as they are down 3-2 with the series heading back to Miami for Game 6.
While there is no confirmation that Minnesota will trade Towns, it could make sense for the Timberwolves to try to shake things up following a disappointing 2022-23 campaign. Meanwhile, New York is always interested in bringing in big-name players, and they have the assets to make a deal happen. The following is a look at why a trade between the Knicks and Timberwolves could happen.
This past season, Minnesota aspired to become one of the best teams in the Western Conference after acquiring Rudy Gobert in the summer. But that didn’t happen.
The Timberwolves, who won 46 games in 2021-22, started slowly as they tried to get comfortable playing with two big men. The Wolves were 10-11 thru the first 21 games, and then Towns went down with a calf injury. When Towns returned nearly four months later, Minnesota was fighting for a play-in spot.
Following Towns’ return, Minnesota went 6-3 down the stretch to finish with a 42-40 record, which was good enough to secure the second play-in spot. After falling to the LA Lakers in the No. 7 and No. 8 game, the Timberwolves defeated New Orleans to secure the Western Conference’s final playoff spot. The Wolves fell to the Denver Nuggets in five games.
While the sample is small, 33 games, the Year 1 Gobert- Towns combo didn’t work. Gobert was brought in to solidify the defense and to hit the defensive glass. Granted, the Timberwolves’ defense did improve, but their offense was much worse. The Wolves rebounding saw a slight uptick, improving from 28th in the league to 26th.
Minnesota was 16-17 when its twin towers started together. The Timberwolves outscored their opponents by 0.3 points a game when Gobert and Towns were on the floor together. That number was -4.2 points in the postseason.
For his part, Towns didn’t have a great season besides his injuries. Most of the 6-11 center’s numbers were down from his career numbers. He averaged 20.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, and a career-high 4.8 assists. Towns compiled a shooting slash line of .495/.366/.874 during the regular season.
Salary Cap Ramifications
Minnesota’s salary cap situation could be a more contributing factor, whether to keep the band together, than Towns and Gobert’s production this past season. The Timberwolves are over the salary cap with 11 players signed. However, the Wolves do have some flexibility. Taurean Prince, Jordan McLaughlin, and Nathan Knight have nonguaranteed deals.
The more significant issue is that Gobert is slated to make $41 million this year, the first season of his max deal. Towns will make $36 million in 2022-23, with his super-max contract kicking in during the 2024-25 campaign. Anthony Edwards is likely to sign a max deal this summer. If the Wolves max out Edwards, they would be the only team with three players on such contracts.
Jaden McDaniels, like Edwards, is eligible for a rookie scale extension. Naz Reid and Jaylen Nowell are unrestricted free agents who the Timberwolves are interested in re-signing. Nickeil Alexander-Walker is a restricted free agent. As a result of the NBA’s new CBA, this is problematic for the Timberwolves.
The league’s CBA is punitive to the league’s highest-spending teams with a second tax apron. This second apron tax makes it harder for teams to acquire new, expensive players. Teams above the second apron cannot use the taxpayer mid-level exception to sign free agents. They also will be prohibited from taking back more salary than they send out in a trade. Additionally, these teams cannot sign players on the buyout market.
NBA league executives spoke to the Sean Deveaney of Heavy about Minnesota potentially trading Towns. An Eastern Conference executive told Deveaney the following:
“You can still sell high on Towns even though it was not a great year for him. He’s signed. He’s still young (27). And he’s good. But you need to have a tougher team around him, and you want him in a comfort zone. That is why the Knicks are always coming up—he is from Jersey, he has a base there. And personnel-wise, it would be a good mix. Everyone knows the connections there, everyone knows there is an interest.”
Why do the Knicks want Towns
New York is enjoying its best season since 2012-13. But the Knicks have not been to the NBA Finals since 1999 or won a title since 1973. They may view Towns as the piece that they have had since Patrick Ewing, which is a star big man.
It is also believed that the Knicks have young talent and future draft picks that could entice the Timberwolves to ship him to New York.
“No matter the success this year, the Knicks are going to keep being aggressive,” an Eastern Conference executive told Deveney. “So you’d want to start with RJ Barrett there. But you can send (Obi) Toppin, you can send (Quentin) Grimes, (Miles) McBride. They do not want to trade (Immanuel) Quickley, but if the target is Towns, maybe they would change that. You’d play Towns at the 5 if you were New York, so they’d probably have Mitchell Robinson in the deal, and he could go to a third team. A lot of possibilities, and Minnesota might be a better team by putting it all on Edwards and getting the right pieces from that mix.”
New York may not have a first-round pick this year. They do own Dallas’ top selection, but it is top-10 protected. However, they possess a gaggle of first-rounders in 2024.
Besides the three 2024 first-rounders, the Knicks have two in 2025. They also have their own first-rounders from 2026-2029, plus several second-rounders beginning in 2024.
Will a Trade Happen?
It is really hard to tell at this point. If Minnesota feels that the tax will be too punitive to have three max contracts on their payroll, and they can get a nice haul in return, then they will make a trade. However, the Timberwolves may want to give their three stars another short so they could wait until next year’s trade deadline before pulling the trigger.
There is no doubt that the Knicks would jump at a chance to acquire Towns. However, it is also believed that Miami, Portland, Brooklyn, Indiana, and possibly Boston could be potential landing spots.