Will the Knicks Trade for Damian Lillard This Summer?

The NBA Finals are about to wind down, which means we have the offseason to look forward to. These days, some say the NBA offseason is even more fun than when actual games are being played.

While the end of the season used to mean a break from betting on basketball, that is no longer the case. Thanks to the massive popularity of betting on player props and futures, you can now bet on the NBA even when it’s out of season.

Following player movement every offseason is one of the most fun aspects of being a basketball fan. This era of player empowerment means we see more big-name players shuffle around the league than ever before. Within the last few years, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler, and Kawhi Leonard are among the massive names we’ve seen change teams.

While the upcoming offseason will be a bit shorter than usual, we will still see no shortage of action. Rumors are already swirling around the downtrodden Ben Simmons, but Simmons may not even be the biggest name on the trade market. According to Henry Abbott of TrueHoop, Damian Lillard is preparing to ask the Portland Trail Blazers for a trade in the next few days.

Would Portland Trade Dame?

When a player asks for a trade, he’s likely to get what he wants. Players have more control over their own situations than ever before. Harden, Davis, Leonard, and Irving have all asked to be dealt over the past few years, and every single one of them ultimately got what he wanted.

The Blazers Are at a Crossroads

The team recently fired longtime head coach Terry Stotts and replaced him (in controversial fashion) with a first-time head coach in Chauncey Billups. The team has had the same core of Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic for the last several years, but Portland has repeatedly flamed out in the early stages of the playoffs. At this point, it’s pretty clear that this core has already reached its ceiling.

GM Neil Olshey has remained steadfast in his claim that the team is not looking in blowing it up. Of course, there isn’t a single general manager in the league that would openly admit that he’s willing to set off a fire sale. If suitors come calling, you can bet Olshey will willingly listen to trade offers on any player on the roster.

That includes Lillard. The 31-year-old has called Portland home for his entire NBA career to this point, but he wants to win. The Blazers have been a consistent playoff team since his arrival in 2012, but the squad as currently constructed just isn’t good enough to compete for a championship. Lillard knows the clock is ticking on his prime years, so it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if he were to ultimately seek a move.

Knicks, 76ers Among Favorites for Dame

Yes, you can actually wager on where Lillard will wind up if the Blazers accept his trade request. NBA betting sites have slapped odds on Dame’s potential destinations ahead of his would-be trade. The New York Knicks, who have been hungry for a superstar ever since Carmelo Anthony left, have emerged as early favorites:

  • New York Knicks (+200)
  • Philadelphia 76ers (+250)
  • Miami Heat (+300)
  • Golden State Warriors (+400)
  • Los Angeles Lakers (+500)
  • Los Angeles Clippers (+600)
  • Boston Celtics (+900)

The Knicks made a surprise playoff appearance last year under Tom Thibodeau, but the team’s brass should still be willing to move heaven and earth if they can realistically attract Lillard to the Big Apple. New York has a bunch of promising young players, but none of them should be untouchable if Dame becomes available.

The Knicks have repeatedly tried and repeatedly failed to lure a single superstar to town via free agency at any point in the last decade. So, their best way to get one may be via trade. If Lillard wants to wind up in New York, the Knicks should pursue a deal aggressively.

Lillard’s Hefty Salary Is Really the Only Stumbling Block

The Knicks would have to try to find a way to match the salaries in any deal, which would likely mean that Julius Randle would have to head back to Portland in any trade. Randle made his first career All-Star appearance last year for the Knicks, but he’s not on Dame’s level in terms of his overall impact. Randle has to be in the deal almost out of sheer necessity to make the money work.

Some combination of RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin, and Kevin Knox would also have to be included as some sort of sweetener for Portland. The issue, of course, is that trading for Lillard may leave the cabinet pretty bare once he arrives. Dame is great, but is he doing to be fired up to join the Knicks if they have to gut their roster just to get him?

Lillard for Simmons?

Ben Simmons is a divisive player around the league. You won’t find many players that have three All-Star selections under their belt by the time they turn 24, but Simmons also has glaring holes in his game. Those holes were on display when the 76ers crashed out of the playoffs in upset fashion at the hands of the upstart Hawks in the Eastern Conference semis.

It sure sounds as though Simmons has played his last game in Philadelphia. Daryl Morey is open to moving the former No. 1 overall pick, and Portland has been a trendy landing spot in trade rumors. A Simmons-for-McCollum swap makes plenty of sense for both sides.

However, could Morey ask for Lillard instead of McCollum if Dame demands to be moved? Lillard is essentially a rich man’s version of McCollum, and he would be the optimal star to pair with Joel Embiid in Philadelphia. The Sixers need to surround Embiid with as much shooting as possible, and Lillard is notorious for his ability to take over games offensively. There likely isn’t another available player in the league that makes as much sense next to Embiid as Lillard does.

Nothing against Julius Randle, but the Blazers would do better to land Ben Simmons in a prospective Lillard trade. Simmons’ shooting woes are well-documented, but he is also an all-world defender capable of guarding all five positions. If he develops a remotely reliable jump shot, he is still young enough to reach his ceiling at some point.

A Lillard-for-Simmons trade works moneywise. Both players are on the books for about $30 million next season, but the Blazers would likely ask for some additional draft capital in order to get full value. They’d be buying low on Simmons in this scenario, while the 76ers would be getting the more established player. Perhaps getting Lillard would be enough to convince Morey to part ways with Tyrese Maxey or a future first-round picks.

As things stand, it’s easier to imagine Portland accepting a trade offer built around Simmons than one around Randle. As a result, I’d much rather bet on Lillard winding up in Philly (+300) than New York (+200).

Could Dame Stay Out West?

Three California teams have emerged as potential landing spots for the California native. Winding up with the Warriors would put Lillard close to his hometown of Oakland, while landing with either LA team would give Dame a legitimate shot at winning a championship next season.

Frankly, though, it’s hard to see how any of these teams can trump the 76ers’ potential offer. Golden State (+400) lacks appealing trade chips once you get past the untouchable Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The Blazers won’t take James Wiseman as the main piece in a Damian Lillard trade. Andrew Wiggins is not a useful asset, either.

The LA teams would have to trade one of their superstars to get Lillard. LeBron James and Anthony Davis aren’t going anywhere. Kawhi Leonard may become a free agent this summer, and he’ll likely miss most of next season after undergoing ACL surgery.

Would a rebuilding Blazers team have interest in Paul George? No, probably not.

George is probably the next-best player that could be made available in trades this summer, but trading Lillard for PG-13 doesn’t get the Blazers any closer to title contention. Portland may also be reluctant to ship their franchise icon to a fellow Western Conference contender. Lillard looks far more likely to land in the East.

Boston or Miami?

Miami and Boston are two teams that pop up just about any time a superstar becomes available. The Celtics have replaced Danny Ainge with Brad Stevens in the front office, while we know the Heat are always willing to be aggressive when it comes to adding star-level talent.

Both teams happen to have promising young players that could be of interest to Olshey and the Blazers. The Heat can dangle Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro, for example. Adebayo is an incredibly accomplished young center, while Herro has shown potential as a scorer in his first two NBA seasons.

Any trade to the Celtics would likely center around Jaylen Brown. Jayson Tatum seems to be emerging as the face of the Celtics moving forward. Boston likely doesn’t have to shake things up in order to right the ship next season, but swapping Brown for Lillard would likely vault the Celtics right back into the championship picture as soon as next season.

The Blazers would be thrilled to add Brown, but would the Celtics be willing to offer the 24-year-old in exchange for a player seven years his senior?

Lillard does have a game that will likely age fairly well, but it’s worth noting that the Celtics did just get burned with an expensive aging point guard in Kemba Walker. Lillard is a better player than Kemba has ever been, but keeping the young core intact may be the preferred course of action for Stevens as he begins his front office tenure.

Where Will Dame Land?

If Lillard is serious about asking the Trail Blazers for a trade, then he has likely already played his last game for the franchise. His value likely won’t get any better from here, and Portland is a franchise in need of a reboot, anyway. Kicking off the rebuilding process by selling high on Lillard makes plenty of sense for the team’s long-term hopes.

Based on what they can theoretically offer, the 76ers, Heat, and Celtics seem to be the most logical landing spots for Lillard. Dame can try to force his way to the Knicks, but New York just doesn’t have the trade pieces to put the best possible offer on the table.

With both teams likely looking to shake things up, a Lillard-for-Simmons move makes too much sense. You’re getting favorable +300 odds on Lillard landing in Philly, which is too good to pass up. If you’re looking for a little more upside, taking a flier on Dame to land in Miami (+300) or Boston (+900) is fine, too.

Where Will Dame Land? –Philadelphia 76ers (+300)

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