Could the Knicks trade for Damian Lillard?

Note: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links, Schneps Media may earn a commission.
Could Damian Lillard be a Knicks trade target?
Damian Lillard (wikimedia commons)

With the NBA Playoffs facing two potential Conference Finals sweeps, NBA chatter has focused on the offseason recently, with a lot of speculation centered around the New York Knicks. 

The Knicks had their second-best season of the century and then beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Despite being outplayed by the Miami Heat in the second round, they pushed the Heat to six games and played them tougher than the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics, the two top seeds in the Eastern Conference. 

As a result, many believe now is the time for the Knicks to take a big swing and try to make a move for a star. 

So far this offseason, the Knicks have already been listed as a possible landing spot for Joel Embiid, Demar DeRozan, and Bradley Beal. It’s time to add Damian Lillard to that listed, as oddsmakers have New York listed as the second most-likely destination for the future Hall of Famer with an implied probability of 18.2%, trailing only Portland, who has an implied probability of 28.6% to retain their star.

However, there is some fire to the smoke of this rumor. 

Could Damian Lillard be a Knicks trade target?
Damian Lillard brings the ball up for Portland (wikimedia commons)

The Trail Blazers are currently slated to pick third in the NBA Draft, but Lillard threw some cold water on that celebration by stating firmly that he has no interest in playing with a young player who needs time to develop. 

 “I don’t have much of an appetite for bringing in guys two and three years away from really going after it…I’m just not interested in [drafting young players]. And this is not a secret. I want a chance to go for it. And if the route is to [draft young players], then that’s probably not my route.”

As a result, it seems like the Portland front office has a choice between keeping Lillard or drafting a potential next star with the third overall pick, likely a choice between G-League guard Scoot Henderson or Alabama forward Brandon Miller. 

That choice has also seemed to split the fanbase, which has not escaped Lillard. 

Just two days after the Trail Blazers were awarded the third pick, a fan on Twitter said they would mute anyone “undervaluing” the team’s pick and “insisting on trading Dame.” Lillard responded, “If the fans wanna trade me…start the petition and send it in.”

While he later clarified that he wasn’t asking for a trade but just stating that “I’ve been on the same team for over a decade” and he was “just saying [that] if people got different wishes…”

If Portland does indeed want to keep Lillard, as has been reported, then they need to add veterans and not youth. Perhaps they would be open to taking Randle and future first-round picks or maybe Randle, Quentin Grimes, and future picks for the number three pick.

However, if Portland decides to move on from Lillard and rebuild around a younger core, the Knicks could be a fit there as well. 

The Trail Blazers would likely ask for a few of the Knicks’ future first-round picks and likely one of Grimes or Immanuel Quickley, who would be less useful to the Knicks with Lillard in tow. The Knicks could also throw in Obi Toppin who could immediately slot in as the starting power forward in Portland, replacing free agent Jerami Grant.

But is New York a good fit for Lillard?

We know that Lillard would certainly like one of the players here as he spoke glowingly of Josh Hart after the two spent parts of two seasons together in Portland.

“We actually formed a friendship and you just get used to people being around,” Lillard said after Hart was traded to the Knicks. “Any time that happens it’s tough, but I think, for him, just knowing that he is a good dude, he’s a good person, I know that he liked being in Portland, he wanted to be in Portland and, you know, you get people to come here and know that they want to be here but the business takes over is just unfortunate.”

Damian Lillard shoots against the Knicks
Damian Lillard shots against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2019 in New York City. (wikimedia commons)

Offensively, Lillard would fill most of the flaws that the Knicks are looking to improve on. 

The veteran guard just had one of the best seasons of his career, averaging a career-high 32.2 points to go along with 7.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds. It helped him earn his seventh All-Star selection and seventh All-NBA selection, but perhaps most importantly, he shot 37.1% from three and is a career 37.2% shooter, which would give the Knicks the floor-spacing they need. 

The 32-year-old would create a positionless combo-guard backcourt with Jalen Brunson. Both players are elite playmakers, who have also shown the ability to work off the ball as well. Brunson in particular was effective as the running mate to Luka Doncic in Dallas and would still thrive as an off-ball guard who can be the primary ball-handler at times when Lillard takes a rest. 

It would also give the Knicks two elite point guards and scorers, which would prevent stretches of stagnant offense which occurred far too often in the playoffs when Brunson took a much-needed rest. 

The biggest issue would be the defensive liabilities this would create. Moving Lillard into the starting lineup is a huge defensive downgrade from Grimes or Quickley. If Randle were also to remain in New York then the Knicks would have four below-average defenders in Brunson, Lillard, Randle, and RJ Barrett. Considering how easily Miami was able to get open looks even when Grimes and Hart were on the floor, a lineup that featured those four players could provide opposing offenses with a field day. 

At the end of the day, Lillard would bring the kind of star power to New York that it hasn’t seen since Carmelo Anthony left town. He and Brunson would be the best offensive backcourt in the NBA, but it’s unclear if it would make the team any more of an NBA title contender given the defensive liabilities. 

If you trade future picks and young stars for a veteran star, you need to ensure you’re in a much better position to win a ring. 

For more Knicks coverage, visit amNY Sports


States: OH, MA, MD, NY, KS, LA, AZ, CO, Il, IN, IA, MI, NH, NJ, PA, TN, VA, WV.

21+ and present in participating states. Gambling problem? Call 1-800-Gambler.BET $5, GET $200!