One situation the entire NBA will be watching closely is that of Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers, who sit amid a critical offseason that could decide whether or not the two sides share a future.
The New York Knicks, specifically, will be waiting by the phone for word of a trade request from the All-Star point guard, should he ever make one.
After flaming out prematurely in the playoffs once again, pressure is on the Trail Blazers to put together a winning product and ease Lillard’s frustrations.
In his nine seasons in Portland, they’ve made the Western Conference Finals just once and were promptly swept by Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors.
With a head coach hire pending, and likely multiple offseason moves to follow, Lillard’s future with the Trail Blazers is as uncertain as ever.
It’s just the opportunity the New York Knicks have been waiting for.
And one team insider has already clarified the haul they’re willing to part with in exchange for Lillard.
Berman Reveals Knicks ‘Willing’ Offer
When canvassing the league in regards to teams with the largest compilations of assets — cap space, draft capital, and young talent — two teams stand atop the totem pole: the New Orleans Pelicans and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
But as things currently stand, neither are expected to be interested in a deal for Lillard.
That could change in the coming weeks, if the All-Star does indeed request a trade, but for now, the window is open for that next tier of teams to put together a competitive offer.
Enter the New York Knicks who, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post, would be willing to part with as many as three first-round picks for the point guard:
The Knicks, who hired Lillard’s mentor, Johnnie Bryant, as an assistant, would be ready to deliver Portland at least three future first-round picks — perhaps on draft night.
It’s unlikely three picks alone could pry Lillard from the Trail Blazers, but the Knicks are also equipped with an equally tempting young core.
Any of Immanuel Quickley, Mitchell Robinson and Obi Toppin could help to move the needle in a deal with Portland.
That’s also subject to change based on which direction the Trail Blazers are determined to go in absence of Lillard.
If they’re still hoping to compete in the Western Conference after the fact, it’s possible other teams could step forward with offers more appealing to that agenda.
But if they’re prepared to go through somewhat of a rebuild, then no trade partner presents a more benefitting offer than the New York Knicks.
A pair of Hall of Fame guards share the same thinking, too.
Magic Johnson, Reggie Miller Endorse Lillard-to-Knicks Trade
On a recent episode of Keyshawn, JWill, and Zubin, Hall of Fame point guard and former NBA executive Magic Johnson was asked who he thought was “the right star” for the New York Knicks.
He responded with one name, and one name only — that of Portland Trail Blazers’ point guard Damian Lillard:
If Dame was available, to me that’s the right dude. That’s the right guy. He’s got to make a decision here. Does he say, ‘Do I stay for one more, and try to give it one more try? or, ‘Do I say this summer I want to go?’
Fellow Hall of Famer guard Reggie Miller echoed the sentiments (via the New York Post) on a June 24, 2021, conference call:
To me, I think they need a superstar. For instance, I’m just saying, if they would’ve had a Damian Lillard along with a Julius Randle, that’s something where you can really say, OK, the Knicks are loaded and ready. They are a superstar away from really taking it to the next level.
But the question remains as to whether or not the Portland Trail Blazers will entertain trade offers.
Right now, their priority looks to be the head coaching hire, which will play directly into their offseason agenda.
And if they do, will the New York Knicks package be enough?