Damian Lillard has yet to request a trade, and no reports have surfaced that he’s ready to leave the Portland Trail Blazers, but don’t doubt the New York Knicks are waiting by the phone.
Unfortunately, they’re just one of many, many teams interested in acquiring the six-time All-Star guard.
But they were one of the first to check on his availability on the market, after Portland’s playoff loss in the first round to the Jamal Murray-less Denver Nuggets.
Yet two months have passed, and while things have gotten rocky, no trade for Lillard seems imminent.
Regardless, barring anything unforeseen like New York signing Chris Paul, they’ll be in play for the point guard up until the moment he’s traded elsewhere.
And according to one NBA executive, the sweepstakes for Damian Lillard could end up being just a two-team race.
Knicks, Warriors to Open Bidding War on Lillard?
He did so though, with the help of a number of NBA executives, presumably unbiased and removed from the situation.
What he was told is that it’s really down to the New York Knicks, and Golden State Warriors:
“New York and Golden State clearly have the best packages for Lillard,” the Western Conference executive said. “Philadelphia in terms of draft considerations and young players, [assuming Simmons is re-routed].”
For what it’s worth, Ben Simmons is being actively shopped in trade talks, and those talks will heat up this week, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
But it’s unlikely that the Portland Trail Blazers see him as a fitting return for Lillard. Whether they’d be ok with swapping CJ McCollum for the 2018 Rookie of the Year is unclear, albeit more likely.
So, if it’s truly down to Golden State and New York, who’s the more likely of a potential destination?
Can the Warriors Win it All?
Not only would the two team’s offers for Damian Lillard vary in nature, but what they have to offer the point guard would be strikingly different as well.
That’s important to note because ideally, the Trail Blazers would be running any and all potential trades past Lillard, and within reason, finding him the home that makes the most sense for both parties.
If the Golden State Warriors were to call the Portland Trail Blazers and offer the seventh and 14th picks in this year’s draft, Andrew Wiggins, and James Wiseman, is that enough?
They could always attach one of their 2026, 2027, or 2028 first-round picks unprotected as well.
Those would be highly appealing given the distant nature of the selections, and uncertainty of the team’s future.
But with the Warriors, Lillard would fit into a three-guard lineup consisting of himself, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson, who’s just getting ready to return from two major injuries.
Is that enough to make it through the current Western Conference picture?
It may sound silly, but other than those three, the Warriors would be relying on Draymond Green and multiple aging veterans on minimum deals.
Does that truly represent Lillard’s best shot at a title?
If there was knowledge that Klay Thompson would be returning to the Warriors the same way he left them and that the blend of this three-guard lineup would be seamless, that would provide more optimism.
But those two unknown variables make this potential trade scenario so complex, and ultimately, less likely.
King of New York?
On the other side of this coin, lie the New York Knicks, fresh off of their first playoff appearance since 2013.
Their armed with multiple draft picks and young talents alike, and hold an All-NBA talent in Julius Randle and seemingly All-Star to be in second-year wing, RJ Barrett.
So, in a hypothetical, they can call the Portland Trail Blazers and offer all of Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin, the 19th and 21st picks in this year’s draft and multiple future firsts.
Is that too far off from the Golden State Warriors offer? Not really, no.
But what the Knicks can offer Lillard is seemingly more appealing, his own point of view depending.
New York’s expected to be operating with north of $50-million in cap space, and could open even more if they renounce the rights to all of their in-house free agents.
Meaning Lillard could arrange for another star talent to join him at Madison Square Garden, as Kawhi Leonard did with Paul George and the LA Clippers some two summers ago.
And from there, as the great Michael Jordan said, the ceiling is the roof.
The New York Knicks don’t necessarily represent the best ‘win now’ opportunity, but as opposed to the Portland Trail Blazers, would certainly offer an opportunity at control, and roster flexibility.
Whenever the Damian Lillard trade (because at this point, it does seem a matter of when, not if) does transpire, expect the New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors to lead the pack of suitors.
As far as which one of them, if either, will pull off the blockbuster, well, that much, as you can see, could ultimately boil down to the All-Star guard’s preference.