The New York Knicks are gearing up to have an active August free agency period, but they may remain patient with their approach as star players like Damian Lillard prepare to decide on their future. Lillard hasnâ€™t requested a trade from Portland, but if he does elect to force his way out, he has a new destination already in mind.
Stephen A. Smith confirmed that Damian Lillard’s “No. 1 destination” if he were to leave Portland is the Knicks, but the chances of him departing are slim.
If the Knicks have any chance at acquiring Lillard, they will have to give future first-round selections and young talent in a prospective deal. They would have to include RJ Barrett, who is set up to have a great year three after seeing significant increases in several categories last season.
At 20 years old, he averaged 17.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and shot 44% from the field. Playing in all 72 games, he averaged 34.9 minutes and shot 40% from three, a .08% increase from his rookie campaign.
Lillard is simply waiting to see how Portland addresses some of its bigger weaknesses, and having just signed a four-year, $176.2 million extension, a lot rides on their ability to improve the roster.
According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, Lillard is buying his time “while waiting to see how the Blazersâ€™ roster looks later in the offseason before reassessing his situation.”
If the Knicks were able to pair Lillard with Julius Randle and utilize some of their new depth pieces, they could have a quality team moving forward. They would need some unproven talents to rise to the occasion, but Lillard is capable of carrying a team all on his own. Last season, the six-time All-Star averaged 28.8 points, 7.5 assists, and shot 45% from the field. His incredible 39% from three over 10.5 attempts per game represents a great clip and success rate.
Knicks’ president Leon Rose would likely do whatever it takes to acquire Lillard, but there are a few other free agents he has to make a decision on in the near future.
Big man Nerlens Noel will have potential suitors this off-season, as heâ€™s been connected to the Detroit Pistons, Sacramento Kings, and Toronto Raptors. The Knicks are also interested in bringing him back on a new deal, having signed a one-year, $5 million contract last season. Noel proved to be a fantastic shot-blocker, averaging 2.2 per game, a career-high. While he doesnâ€™t offer much on offense, heâ€™s a solid reserve piece who can contribute defensively and mitigate fatigue for Mitchell Robinson.
The former first-round pick played valiantly in the absence of Robinson last year, starting 41 games and averaging 24.2 minutes. He is a quality player, but his price tag may increase this off-season to a point where the Knicks donâ€™t feel comfortable spending upwards of $7 million on a backup center.