Should the New York Knicks aim for Chris Paul or Damian Lillard?

damian lillard, new york knicks
May 22, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) controls the ball against the Denver Nuggets during the third quarter during game one in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks head into the 2022 off-season with a head full of steam, and while some might remain negative regarding a tough postseason series against the Atlanta Hawks, the reality is nobody anticipated this Knicks team making it that far in the first place.

What head coach Tom Thibodeau did in terms of defensive proficiency and extracting the most out of his players was simply astounding. He put the Knicks in the right direction after years of traveling down a one-way street. A good analogy to use in New York, as the Knicks continuously took right-hand turns when they had no choice but to go left. However, they are now preparing to enter free agency with money to spend and one goal in mind, pairing Julius Randle with another star.

It was clear during the postseason that Randle couldn’t handle the pressure alone, so finding another quality player to take some of the pressure off and allow the young players to extrapolate on their talent is exactly what management should be looking to accomplish.

There are several players that fit the bill for the Knicks, but they depend on player options and the decision to stick with their current team or seek a trade. One option is Damian Lillard, given his team has failed to push deep into the playoffs and contend for a championship, but the Knicks have the right coaching pieces and money to spend this upcoming off-season, which can be an attractive thing.

Should the New York Knicks target Chris Paul or Damian Lillard?

Chris Paul:

Paul is reportedly looking to opt-out of his contract for 2022. Paul would be owed $44.2 million if he accepted his player-option with the Phoenix Suns, but he seems to be more interested in signing a three-year deal in the $100 million range. Luckily, the Knicks still have Julius Randle under contract and about $60 million to play with once August 1 hits.

Paul is still capable of playing at an elite level, averaging 16.4 points, 8.9 assists, and shot nearly .500 from the field this past season. He is a quality player, and while his point production has taken a slight dip over the years, he’s still managed two consecutive All-Star appearances.

There’s no question signing Paul would be an expensive decision, but he would immediately make the Knicks a far better team, especially as they look for an answer at point guard. Rolling with Elfred Payton, Frank Ntilikina, and Derrick Rose is simply no longer acceptable, despite Rose playing exceptional basketball this year. Rose would be a phenomenal player off the bench to supplement injuries and help the youngsters develop, specifically Immanuel Quickley.

The Knicks do have a healthy number of players preparing to hit FA themselves, as they were on one-year deals. Those options remain Nerlens Noel, Taj Gibson, Elfred Payton, and Alex Burks. Of all four players, retaining Noel and Burks might be in their best interest, as both played pivotal roles in a postseason run this year.

Damian Lillard:

Another player, the New York Knicks, could court is Damian Lillard, a 30-year-old point guard who recently dominated a post-season series against the Denver Nuggets, despite his team being knocked out. Over the past five games, Lillard scored less than 28 points just once and reached 55 points on June 1 in a double-overtime loss. Simply said, his team lacks quality defense, which is something the Knicks are proficient in.

Adding a player of his class and offensive prowess to a team with the number one ranked defense in the NBA during the regular season would be a match made in heaven. Rumors have been swirling that Lillard could look to move on from the Blazers if they were knocked out of the postseason, and considering that just became a reality, it could open the door for a maneuver. He is six years younger than Chris Paul and offers them an elite point guard immediately to pair with Randle.

The problem is, Lillard is on a new four-year, $176.2 million deal, so the Knicks would have to part with significant capital to acquire him. Luckily, New York has been stockpiling draft selections for the past few seasons and has two first-round picks next year they can send to Portland.

While the reality of acquiring Lillard is far from optimistic, the Knicks have the money and draft capital to make it work, but it comes down to the player and his desire to either stay with his current team or take his talents elsewhere.