Earlier this offseason, Damian Lillard‘s name circulated in trade rumors, as it was reported that he wanted out of the Portland Trail Blazers—and of course the New York Knicks were one of the teams mentioned.
Since then, Lillard has done a great job of disproving this gossip, but has made it clear that if the Blazers don’t make significant improvements to their roster, the rumors could become a reality.
Despite Dame’s statements, the rumor mill continues to churn; a relentless, unmovable juggernaut that spits out terrible trade proposals.
The New York Knicks pipedream for Damian Lillard makes perfect sense
Even though Rip City should take a sigh of relief for the time being, it’s never too early to prepare for the worst. If General Manager Neil Olshey fails to build a true contender around Lillard this offseason, Dame may very well seek the bright lights of the Big Apple.
The Knicks found themselves in a surprising situation this offseason. Before the 2020-2021 season, New York probably expected to be preparing a draft board for their high lottery pick and a pitch for the loaded free agency class.
Instead, they’ve uncovered a solid young core, with two rising stars in Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, that just came off a top-4 playoff berth. Under new management led by President Leon Rose and Head Coach Tom Thibodeau, New York is thirsting for real playoff success.
Now, rather than start their rebuild by landing a star in free agency like they’ve planned to since Carmelo Anthony skipped town, they’ll aim their focus on landing a top-tier player to take their squad into true title contention.
Damian Lillard could easily make them a real playoff threat, so it makes sense that the Knicks would go all-in for the superstar point guard. It might hurt, but imagine Dame Time going off in Madison Square Garden. The city definitely wouldn’t sleep that night.
What a New York Knicks trade package for Damian Lillard would actually look like
The tricky part for New York is they have to try to land Lillard in a trade, while also keeping enough talent to ensure that Dame can compete for a title there.
All of New York’s desirable assets are their young players, who also happen to be their top talent. They’ll have to discern which players they’d like to build around along with Lillard and which they’re willing to give up to acquire the superstar.
Contrary to popular Knicks fans belief, Portland isn’t taking an offer that doesn’t include RJ Barrett.
From what we’ve learned from recent superstar trades in the past, like for Paul George, Anthony Davis, and James Harden, it’s going to take a combination of players and multiple first-round picks to get the job done. Not only will New York have to give up young talent and first-rounders, they’ll likely have to throw in some potential pick swaps in between, just in case.
Here’s a realistic package that could force the Blazers hand if Lillard were to ask out:
How this trade affects the Portland Trail Blazers
This trade does not return enough immediate talent for the Blazers to justify keeping the rest of the core intact, but it does serve as a great starting point to launch their rebuild.
After a rocky rookie season, Barrett has started to come into his own as a slashing point forward in the mold of Jimmy Butler. His playmaking is well-advanced beyond his years and his offensive touch is miles ahead of what he showed in his rookie season. He’s already a terror in transition and driving inside. Once he adds some go-to moves to his bag and develops a more reliable outside jumper, he’ll be a repeat member of the All-Star game.
Immanuel Quickley is what could turn this from a fair deal into possibly the best case scenario for a team losing a future Hall-of-Famer. Quickley generated some Rookie of the Year buzz with his shiftiness and ability to score on the ball. His floater game is already in the top-tier of the league.
If he’s able to strengthen his body, become a more consistent finisher inside, and fine-tune his playmaking, he’ll be one of the most dangerous young guards in the league.
With an incoming young backcourt with limitless potential and plenty of future picks to add to their core, the Blazers can look to the future post-Damian Lillard. Add whatever Portland can get for the rest of their veterans and a pretty large trade exception and the Blazers have the start of a fantastic rebuild.