The New York Knicks have been a huge surprise during the 2020-21 NBA season, with Julius Randle emerging as a star in the making. While the focus is on making a run in the playoffs, New York’s front office might be thinking about a blockbuster trade this summer.
It’s been a long time since New York landed a franchise-caliber player, often whiffing in their pursuits during free agency. With the 2021 NBA free agency class weakened, given Kawhi Leonard will remain with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Knicks must turn their sights to the trade front.
Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes recently wrote an in-depth report detailing the situation in Portland between Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers. As of now, the Trail Blazers would have to take part in the play-in tournament and that’s even after a recent winning streak.
While the Trail Blazers have made some efforts to improve the roster, it’s not close to good enough to be a serious contender in the Western Conference.
Turning 31 in July, Lillard wants to play for an organization that will take an all-in approach and is willing to make blockbuster moves. Many teams are monitoring the situation and that includes the New York Knicks.
According to the New York Post‘s Marc Berman, the Knicks are closely monitoring the situation and would immediately get involved if Lillard demands a trade or Portland makes him available this summer.
As for the potential cost, there isn’t much New York wouldn’t be willing to move. They have plenty to package together, including the Dallas Mavericks’ 2021 first-round selection and their own first-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. On top of that, the Knicks own Detroit’s second-round pick (top-35 selection) and the Mavericks’ top-10 protected pick in 2023.
Sitting at 35-28 entering Sunday’s action, New York really needs another star to take that big step forward. Tom Thibodeau is a great coach, responsible for one of the best defenses in the NBA, and the Knicks have a deep bench. But an All-Star guard to pair with Randle and RJ Barrett would be huge. If he became available, a potential trade package could be put together.
A lineup with Lillard, Barrett, Randle and Mitchell Robinson would give New York an excellent chance to compete for a top seed in the East. Plus, the Knicks still have a ton of cap space that could be used to help fill out the roster.
The pieces are starting to fall into place quicker than anyone expected. While landing a star in free agency might be easier, the options are limited. If Lillard decides he has had enough in Portland, it appears the Knicks will be among the teams in pursuit.