Following their surprise 2022-23 season that saw them claim their first playoff series win since 2012-13, the New York Knicks are expected to be quite an active club this summer in an attempt to bolster their talent pool to better their odds of achieving greater successes come next year.
To Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley, there’s a specific multi-team trade idea that Leon Rose and company should consider a “no-brainer” move when it comes to achieving such a task.
The proposed exchange reads as follows:
New York Knicks receive: Paul George
Los Angeles Clippers receive: Damian Lillard
Portland Trail Blazers receive: RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, Jericho Sims, Evan Fournier, 2025 first-round pick (top-four protected, from MIL via NYK), 2027 first-round pick (via NYK) and 2029 first-round pick (via NYK)
Citing the fact that the Knicks “still seem a two-way star short of making a championship run,” coupled with the fact that their front office “could feel the urgency to act” being Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle are “in the heart of their primes,” Buckley argues that swapping out former third overall pick RJ Barrett for the remaining four years of Paul George’s $176 million contract could be a move well worth making.
“George would immediately address New York’s spacing concerns in a major way, while stepping into the featured role on offense. He isn’t so ball-dominant that he would limit Randle or Brunson’s chances to create, though. If coach Tom Thibodeau could strike the optimal balance of touches between them, the hope is that each would make the others more efficient,” Buckley wrote.
Of course, Buckley would shed light on the eight-time All-Star’s injury woes of late, noting that Paul George “has averaged just 47.3 appearances over the past four seasons.”
However, should the Knicks wind up pursuing such a trade, clearly they’d be banking on the upside of having him healthy which, when this is the case, he’s only proven to be one of the best talents the league has to offer.
Despite his varying ailments, since 2018-19 the wing finds himself boasting stellar per-game averages of 24.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.7 steals while shooting 44.5% from the field and 38.8% from distance.
His abilities to excel offensively whilst sharing the load with other stars would make him a quality fit running alongside Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle while his defensive efforts would likely endear him to head coach Tom Thibodeau almost instantaneously upon arrival.
RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin ‘Long-Term Keepers’ for Blazers
While such a monstrous transaction would certainly be beneficial in the short-term assuming the Knicks are gunning for a championship within the next few years, for the Portland Trail Blazers, Zach Buckley believes that this would give the franchise the opportunity to bring aboard a boatload of “long-term keepers,” with RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin headlining the charge.
“As for the Portland Trail Blazers, this feels like the right time to split from Lillard, even if neither side wants to admit it. Portland already has a young core brewing with Anferee Simons, Shaedon Sharpe and whomever it gets with the No. 3 pick. It would enhance that collection here with RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin and Jericho Sims all looming as realistic long-term keepers. The Blazers would further brighten their future with three first-round picks, only one of which is protected (and lightly protected at that). Evan Fournier would strictly be a money-matcher in this exchange, but if Portland decided to play him, he’d help keep the offensive end spaced for the up-and-comers to attack,” Buckley wrote.
Though neither Barrett nor Toppin has been able to piece together a consistent flow of success since entering the league, both former lottery picks have yet to consistently be used as clear top options on a regular basis.
While the win-now Knicks may not be able to provide them such a luxury, the presumed rebuilding Portland Trail Blazers certainly would if they were to execute this proposed deal.
In 2022-23, despite some inconsistencies (particularly with his shooting stroke), RJ Barrett still managed to finish out the regular season sporting solid per-game averages of 19.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.8 assists.
For Obi Toppin, as has been the case since being selected eighth overall back in the 2020 NBA Draft, he found himself sequestered behind star Julius Randle within the Knicks rotation this past season and, thus, was used sparingly (averaged just 15.7 minutes per game).
However, throughout his tenure in New York, whenever given an increased role within the rotation the big man has only gone on to shine, as he finds himself posting immaculate averages of 20.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists while shooting 57.6% from the field and 44.0% from deep in his 15 total starts during his three-year career.
In theory, a move to a youth-movement team would provide a tremendous opportunity to both Barrett and Toppin, and the Blazers could wind up becoming such a team should they move on from Damian Lillard as Buckley has suggested.
Knicks’ Jalen Brunson Calls Out NBA for Drug Test
In his inaugural season with the New York Knicks, Jalen Brunson went on to post career-best averages all across the board and, in turn, established himself as the club’s long-awaited franchise point guard.
And though fans are simply elated with how well the 26-year-old performed during his first season at MSG, in a recent Tweet from his personal account, Brunson suggests that the league as a whole has more questions rather than words of praise, as he revealed that the NBA had requested him to take a drug test less than 24 hours after the Denver Nuggets were crowned champions.
“Off season drug test season in full effect. It’s been 12 hours 😂😂😂,” Jalen Brunson wrote.
Jalen Brunson finished out his inaugural campaign with the Knicks boasting highly impressive per-game averages of 24.0 points, 6.2 assists, and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 49.1% from the field and 41.6% from deep.