Three Deals to Bring 6x All-Star, NBA 75 Pick to the Knicks: Insider

Damian Lillard Knicks-Blazers

Getty Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard handles the ball during a game against the New York Knicks.

Heading into the team’s Friday road tilt with the Raptors, it has become crystal clear that the New York Knicks are not where they should be. The team just logged five losses in seven games and former All-Star Kemba Walker — once considered the Knicks’ top free-agent prize — just got dumped from the rotation.

As a result, some are starting to wonder whether Leon Rose botched the offseason. Heading into the summer, New York looked to have oodles of cap space with which to bring on another star. Instead of doing that, though, the Knicks brought in Walker and Evan Fournier and re-signed a bunch of bit players to bigger deals.

Clearly, that strategy has yet to pay off, leaving fans to pine for that elusive blockbuster move. However, some would say that such a move may still be in the cards for the team.

For his part, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith recently reiterated that the Knicks would be Blazers star Damian Lillard’s preferred destination if he asked out of Portland. Whether that’s true or not, Dame-to-the-Big-Apple chatter has been running strong for some time now.

Given that proliferation, SportsNet New York’s Ian Begley has taken it upon himself to pitch three trades that would see Lillard trade in his Blazers black and red for the blue and orange of the Knicks.

Begley Works the Trade Machine

As Begley sees it, these are the three packages that the Knicks could put together for Lillard:

  • PACKAGE ONE: RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, three first-round picks (straight up/swap). Including Kemba Walker and Alec Burks in this deal would satisfy the NBA trade rules.
  • PACKAGE TWO: Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, three first-round picks (straight up/swap). Including Derrick Rose, Burks, Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride would make the trade legal under NBA rules.
  • PACKAGE THREE: Barrett, Quickley, Toppin, three first-round picks (straight up/swap). Including Rose and Taj Gibson in this deal would satisfy NBA trade rules.

Although Begley has come out hot with three big trades to get Lillard to NYC, there are some common elements in play with all of the proposed packages. Firstly, all three deals include a trio of first-round picks and/or pick swaps. That may seem excessive, but it’s probably a good starting point for any Lillard deal.

If the Blazers are going to move their franchise player, they’re only doing it for something that significantly aids in their effort to build toward a better future. We’re not just talking quality young players, but draft assets that can be used as picks or as trade chips.

The other commonality — RJ Barrett is included with every package. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, either. The former No. 3 overall pick has the most upside on the roster and he’s still on his rookie-scale deal. As a result, the Blazers would have an upper hand in keeping him in Portland.

Getting a 21-year-old with star potential and that extendable contract would be a nice way to save some face after losing an all-time great.

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Is There Really a Home-Run Deal Here?

Of the three packages, the third one may be the Knicks’ best bet to get a deal done. Getting Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley in addition to Barrett would set the Blazers up with an intriguing young core to develop and build around. Whether it’s actually enough to get Lillard is difficult to say.

Another thing to consider — even if that’s not quite equal value for Lillard, it may be too much for the Knicks to part with. As noted by Begley, ESPN has reported that Lillard will seek a two-year, $107-million contract extension this offseason. When you combine that level of deal with whatever it takes to keep Julius Randle in town, you’re not left with much ability to round out a roster.

As Begley sees it, the Knicks should only go down that road if they know a third star can be had as well.

“In my opinion, you make a trade for Lillard if you know that it will lead to another top player coming to town,” he wrote. “If it’s just Lillard, Julius Randle, and players to fill out the roster, it’s hard to see how that sets New York up for long-term success.”


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