Breaking down a potential Knicks trade for Karl-Anthony Towns


The Knicks are three Boston Celtics wins away from the official start of their offseason. This year, teams can talk to their own free agents on the day after the NBA Finals ends, so if the Celtics sweep the Dallas Mavericks, the Knicks can start negotiations with OG Anunoby, Isaiah Hartenstein, Precious Achiuwa and their other free agents on June 15. They can also start to negotiate extensions with Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle after the Finals ends.

Once again, New York enters the offseason well-positioned for a significant trade, as they have three picks in the top 38 of the 2024 NBA Draft, own all of their future first-round picks and the rights to three additional first-rounders.

If the Knicks want to upgrade their roster this offseason or down the line (they do), a trade is the most likely option. With that in mind, we took a look at the math behind a Karl-Anthony Towns trade below and put together a few packages that would work under NBA trade guidelines *with the help of **Yossi Gozlan.

*This is not a commentary on whether the trade packages are advantageous for either Minnesota or New York. **Gozlan has a remarkably informative YouTube page if you want to learn more about teams’ cap implications.

BOGDANOVIC’S ROLE

Let’s start with Bojan Bogdanovic. His contract is currently guaranteed for $2 million. It becomes fully guaranteed at $19 million on June 28. If you’re thinking about a trade, the Knicks’ decision on Bogdanovic is key.

Here’s Gozlan: “I think it makes sense to keep him and guarantee him for the upcoming season if the Knicks feel like there is a trade for an All-Star on the horizon. Attaching his $19 million with Julius Randle’s $28.9 million allows them to match for just about anyone. If Bogdanovic is gone, they likely need to trade Josh Hart or Mitchell Robinson, or even try to get Precious Achiuwa involved in a sign-and-trade to get enough money to send out.”

Would the Knicks move any of the other players Gozlan mentions above? My read is that any player outside of Brunson would be available in the right trade, as you’d expect.

MAKING SALARIES MATCH?

If they re-sign Anunoby and Hartenstein, the Knicks will likely want to avoid being hard-capped at the first apron ($178 million) to build out the roster. From a trade perspective, the Knicks would trigger the hard-cap if they take back more money than they send out. The Timberwolves also probably don’t want to take back more money than they send out in a trade before July 1 because it would trigger a hard-cap. So it would make sense for the Knicks to execute a trade that matches Towns’ salary dollar for dollar.

The Knicks would have to match Towns’ $36 million salary in a trade executed prior to July 1. If the trade is executed after July 1, they would have to match Towns’ $49 million salary. (Worth noting: the teams could execute a multiple-team deal to add more money on both ends of the deal and satisfy league trade rules. Also worth noting: under current CBA rules, the Knicks would be hard-capped in 2024-25 if they take back more money in a trade made before July 1. So it’s imperative that the Knicks avoid that hard-cap so they can exceed that first apron to build out the roster.)

OK, SO WHAT PACKAGES MIGHT WORK?

Randle, Bogdanovic, Jericho Sims and multiple first-round picks work in a trade that’s executed after July 1. This salary total barely exceeds Towns’ $49.3 million. It would hard-cap the Knicks at the second apron in 2024-25.

In a trade prior to July 1, New York could send out Randle and Bogdanovic, with the Knicks increasing his partial guarantee next year to $7.8 million and including multiple first-round picks; this would be a 100 percent match for Towns’ $36 million. It would hard-cap the Knicks at the second apron in 2024-25.

WHY WOULD MINNESOTA TRADE TOWNS?

The Timberwolves are coming off one of the best seasons in franchise history. They won 56 games and reached the Western Conference Finals. They have an ascendant star in Anthony Edwards and Towns was an integral part of the team’s success. So why would the Timberwolves even think about trading Towns? Finances. As currently constituted, Minnesota projects to pay $75 million in luxury tax next season, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

Is ownership willing to spend that kind of money? Which ownership group is even making the decision? Glen Taylor and an ownership group led by Alex Rodriguez and Mark Lore are headed to arbitration in a battle over controlling stake of the team.

For now, Taylor has controlling interest of the team. The arbitration is unlikely to be resolved prior to free agency. Taylor, according to The Athletic, has shown a willingness to spend the luxury tax money to keep the team together.

WHY WOULD THE KNICKS WANT TOWNS?

The Knicks will always have a degree of interest in Towns. The NBA, like most entities, is a relationship business. Knicks president Leon Rose is Towns’ former agent. He and Knicks executive vice president William Wesley are close with Towns and his family. Knicks senior vice president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas ran the Timberwolves during Towns’ tenure.

So there are plenty of organic connections between New York and Towns. As far as his fit on the basketball court, people in the organization (not just the people mentioned above) viewed Towns as a strong upgrade in past iterations of this Knicks team. I can’t say with any certainty whether the key decision-makers still view Towns in that way. But if they do, the Knicks have the assets to bring him to New York.



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