Damian Lillard has tried to downplay the rumors that he’ll be requesting a trade away from the Portland Trail Blazers this summer, but he hasn’t ruled it out.
Not even in the slightest.
While preparing for the Tokyo Olympics for Team USA, the superstar point guard said that he hadn’t “made any firm decision on what my future will be,” but admitted that the Blazers need to be “more urgent” about building a legitimate contender around him and CJ McCollum.
By those standards, it sounds as though Lillard is at least willing to give the Blazers a chance and return to the franchise for a 10th professional season. But the clock is clearly ticking — and the Knicks are among those who are lurking.
According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, only a few team executives actually see a trade of Lillard going down this summer, but the Knicks, Miami Heat, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, and Philadelphia 76ers are the “most aggressive suitors.”
The six-time All-Star would revolutionize any backcourt that he goes to, averaging 27.6 points and 6.9 assists per game over the past five seasons.
For the Knicks, he would be the franchise point guard that the organization has been starving for over the last five decades.
Granted, it’s a no-brainer move, in theory, to get a player of Lillard’s caliber — especially for a franchise that had its best season in eight years just by making the postseason.
But the asking price for Lillard is expected to be gargantuan, one that rivals what the Brooklyn Nets gave up to the Houston Rockets for All-Star guard James Harden, per O’Connor.
By those standards, that would mean the Knicks would have to part with young talent, three first-round picks, and four first-round pick swaps. And that price could be even higher considering Lillard is under contract for the next four seasons while Harden was secure for just two when the Nets got him.
The Knicks certainly have those resources with players like RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin, and Mitchell Robinson, among others, to offer. They also have five first-round draft picks over the next three seasons.
It would sap the Knicks of much of their resources, though, as a Lillard move would deplete its young core and future chance to build organizational depth through the draft.