The New York Knicks had a strong first season under head coach Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau got the team to buy into his game plan, resulting in a 41-31 regular season, the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage in the first round. Unfortunately, that home-court advantage was short-lived, which could make the Knicks look to aggressive pursue a trade for a superstar like Damian Lillard.
New York was exposed in the first round by the Atlanta Hawks, losing the series 4-1. The Knicks just couldn’t keep up with the offensive firepower that the Hawks had, as their most improved player of the year, Julius Randle and rising youngster RJ Barrett couldn’t consistently get it going.
Heading into the offseason, it is clear that Leon Rose and William Wesley need to upgrade the talent on this roster. Thibodeau got the most out of this season’s roster, but they need to add more talent. One way to do that is via trade.
For years, the Knicks have been mentioned in the running for All-Star free agent and superstars demanding trades. Virtually every time, it was to drive up the price as players didn’t seriously consider the Knicks. This time, it feels and sounds different, as the organization looks to have a plan in place they are executing. Could that plan ultimately lead to landing superstar point guard, Damian Lillard?
Landing a player of Lillard’s caliber would give the Knicks exactly what they are missing; a guy that can create for himself at a high level and isn’t afraid of the bright lights. You can watch montages of Lillard knocking down big shot after big shot, carrying the Portland Trail Blazers throughout recent postseasons.
Acquiring a player as good as Lillard would not be cheap. Marc Berman of the New York Post recently detailed what some of a potential trade package for him would look like.
“The Knicks have five first-round picks over the next three years. In the upcoming draft, they have three picks in the top 31 — including two first-rounders at 19 and 21.
The Knicks are likely willing to include three first-round picks in a Lillard deal and have the cap space to make a transaction smoother mathematically.”
If three first-round picks are all it takes for the Knicks to gain traction in a trade for Damian Lillard, they should have been on the phone yesterday completing that deal. Looking back on recent trades involving high-level All-Stars, three draft picks would be a steal. Portland would probably ask for just as many potential first-round swaps as well and young players as well, something the Knicks do have a lot of.
The salary cap space New York has does make it easier to navigate a trade, but they wouldn’t want to strip their roster of all their assets, such as when they acquired Carmelo Anthony in 2011. The more prudent move would be signing some free agents with that salary cap space and then sending some salary back to Portland, as they would undoubtedly be looking to receive some pieces in return as well.