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Knicks fans are very split about whether to trade for Damian Lillard. Let’s preface this with the fact that as of today he’s not even available and Portland would never trade him unless he demanded a trade. So all discussion about a hypothetical Lillard trade is based on the assumption that he will do this (again, no evidence that he will).
Let’s start with what it would take for this trade to even happen. Portland would definitely want RJ Barrett plus some combination of Robinson, Toppin, or Quickley. Plus both of this years firsts, a 2023 first, and probably one or two pick swaps. That’s based on the Jrue Holiday trade and Lillard has more value than Holiday.
It should also be noted that Lillard is on his way to the Tokyo Olympics. Will a trade for Damian cost even more if Lillard dominates on his way to Olympic gold? Side note, team USA is favored to win gold. Odds are listed at -305. If you want to take advantage of the odds and you’re located in NY, you can go to a physical retailer to make a bet. You just can’t do it online. Though, the State could see a launch for online platforms later this year or early 2022. At the moment, the total revenue of bets placed via retailers in New York is $28 million. Once online platforms launch, that number will soar.
The debate for doing this trade is that Lillard is an elite player and you don’t win championships without one. Agreed on that point, but you also don’t win championships with a super thin roster. If the Knicks traded Barrett and Robinson they’d have Lillard, Randle, Toppin, Quickley, Knox, Vildoza, and Pelle. Oh and they’re STILL PAYING JOAKIM NOAH 6.4 million next year. Lillard makes over $43 Milliion next season. That would mean the Knicks would have about $30 million to fill out the rest of the roster. That’s probably not even enough money to retain Rose, Burks, Bullock, and Noel. They could decide not to bring any of them back and sign another big free agent, but unless the Knicks are getting Paul or Leonard the free agency pool is pretty thin. Maybe the Knicks sign Oubre and use a few bird rights to go over the cap and sign a few vet minimum contracts. Lillard, Quickley, Oubre, Randle, Noah…..Does that make them a contender? Does that make them even a top 5 team in the east? They’d be locked into that roster with no draft picks and very few young assets.
On the other hand what’s the path to a championship without making a big trade? Probably trying to package both is this years firsts to move up and maybe draft James Bouknight. Barrett, Robinson, and Quickley should all improve next year, and Randle is already in the gym working on his game. They have a lot of cap space and can make a few mid level free agency signings. Just like in the above scenario the Knicks would probably still be 5th in the east, but they’d have a lot more flexibility and young prospects to improve in the future.
So what would you bet the Knicks do? Which path would you like them to take? Once online platforms launch, that number will soar. I’m hoping the Knicks stay the course and not try to put their entire hopes on one player.