No one’s playing down the leap that the New York Knicks have taken as a franchise over the last year, now on the verge of their first playoff appearance since the 2013-2014 season.
But as fun as these breakthroughs are for fans and players alike, they are so often followed up with a question of what’s next.
For the Knicks, there’s little doubt. New York wants to home a superstar.
And according to one team insider, they may have found one.
Damian Lillard On the Move?
Marc Berman of the New York Post reported on Friday night that the New York Knicks, in preparation of making a splash this offseason, are keeping their eyes on point guard Damian Lillard:
The Knicks are gearing up to be heavy hitters either on the trade market or in free agency this summer — with point guard their top priority — and they have their antennae up regarding the status of Portland superstar Damian Lillard.
His report comes as a follow-up to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports! latest on the Western Conference point guard and his future with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Lillard has been adamant about maintaining a certain loyalty to his only ever NBA home, but Haynes suggests there’s a frustration building:
The six-time All-Star desperately has stated repeatedly that he craves to bring a championship to Portland. But with each head-scratching loss and early postseason exit, his desire to fulfill that craving is appearing more and more like a pipe dream…As he turns 31 this summer and considering all he’s done for the franchise, a more aggressive, risky approach is needed in order to pair him with another bona fide star.
Lillard is in just the second year of a four-year, supermax extension. It’s rare that a player has ever been granted a trade with that much time remaining on their current contract, but stranger things have happened in the NBA.
As Haynes mentioned, any frustrations with Lillard could be likely be smoothed over by placing another star alongside him.
But as things currently stand, that would be a far heavier lift for a team like Portland than the Knicks, who’ll be operating free agency with over $50-million in cap space this offseason.
Berman closed his reporting saying that acquiring Lillard isn’t viewed by the New York front office as any final step to contending:
The Knicks likely view a trade for Lillard, averaging 28.2 points and 7.4 assists, as being one of the final two pieces to being an Eastern Conference title contender if they don’t lose a core player in the deal.
A superstar in his own right, the 30-year old point guard has advanced past the first-round of the playoffs in just three of seven postseason appearances.
Perhaps the intrigue behind competing in the Eastern Conference, alongside a second star would be enough to lure Damian Lillard to the New York Knicks.
But could Leon Rose and company swing a deal of that caliber?
What Would a Trade for Lillard Look Like?
Given the aforementioned nature of his contract status, any deal for Damian Lillard would have to be abundant with assets and young talent alike.
Fortunately for pondering fans, Berman included what New York likely views as the framework of a potential deal in his report on Friday:
According to one league executive, the Knicks likely would be willing to trade three or four of their first-rounders in a deal for Lillard if that means they can hold onto Barrett and Obi Toppin.
It’s interesting to hear that the Knicks may be keen on keeping rookie Obi Toppin around. He’s failed to meet the anticipation that precedented his rookie season after being drafted eighth overall by New York in last year’s draft.
On the flip side, and as Berman later notes, it’s surprising to read that Mitchell Robinson could be had in a deal for a player of Lillard’s caliber:
With defensive center Nerlens Noel playing so effectively, it stands to reason that injured center Mitchell Robinson could even be made available as a centerpiece with the first-rounders.
Whether or not the 23-year old center and multiple first-round draft picks would get a deal done with the Portland Trail Blazers remains unclear.
But as the season continues on toward it’s close, and the offseason looms, don’t expect any rumors surrounding the New York Knicks to suddenly silence.
Madison Square Garden may be home to a superstar player soon enough.
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