The Knicks have a new rivalry brewing in the Eastern Conference

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) drives against New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson (23) and guard Elfrid Payton (6) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021, in New York

The New York Knicks must add the Milwaukee Bucks to their list of strongest Eastern Conference foes as they aim to be the team to make it out of the conference this season. Following speculation all summer long, Damian Lillard is now a member of the Milwaukee Bucks.

A blockbuster three-team trade that sent him to Milwaukee primes the Bucks with the best odds to win it all. The Knicks have separated themselves among the top teams in the East with few additions and cohesiveness like no other, but a showdown with the Bucks is brewing for the grand stage. 

Defending against Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard averaged 32 points per game last season. Adding him to a lineup that already features a top-three player in Giannis Antetokounmpo certainly puts the Bucks in the conversation for the best team in the NBA.

The Knicks have the guard depth that many teams lack, allowing them to throw defenders at Lillard. Making him work on defense will be the recipe for containing the Milwaukee Bucks. Players like Josh Hart, Donte DiVincenzo, and Quentin Grimes; guys that won’t be expected to score 25-30 points will have the needed motor to contain Lillard on defense.

Knicks “faithful” Stephen A. Smith seems to believe the Celtics and Bucks are the most prominent teams in the East.

Defense wins championships

Last season, New York shocked the NBA world, defeating the favored Cleveland Cavaliers in just five games. Now, with added defensive-minded players, the Knicks boast an even better team than last season. Posting second in the playoffs last season for team defensive ranking, the Knick’s cohesion continues to go undervalued. 

Do the Knicks stand a chance against the Bucks in the postseason?

The regular season grind for the Knicks will be different from the top teams in the East. The Knicks don’t have just one player who can score 20 on any given night; they have three.

Brunson, Barrett, and Randle have another year to gel and progress from their youth to the prime of their careers.

Knicks fans saw how the regular season took a toll on Julius Randle last season, so additional help from Barrett following this blockbuster trade in the East is the key. A minor drop in Randle’s points per game will indicate the growth of his supporting cast.

Jalen Brunson averaged 37 points per game in the final three games against the Miami Heat in the playoffs last season, and the media is on the Bucks being favorites out of the East. Lillard taking the Bucks from pretenders to contenders is beautiful on the marquee. When that marquee is at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks will be more formidable than many expect. 

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