The “disgruntled superstar” trade is one that has become more and more popular in the NBA in recent seasons. As this offseason rapidly approaches, there are a couple of players who could fall into this category. It has the New York Knicks, with plenty of cap space and roster flexibility, licking their chops at the opportunity.
Just this past season we saw the disgruntled superstar trade in full effect when James Harden was traded from the Houston Rockets to the Brooklyn Nets. Past instances in recent seasons have highlighted Anthony Davis going from the Pelicans to the Lakers and who could forget Jimmy Butler's exit from Minnesota.
Now, Blazers superstar Damian Lillard may be growing frustrated with the situation in Portland and his own spot. If Lillard opts to ask for a trade, the Knicks will undoubtedly be one of the teams to try and lure away the All-Star.
Here are the two best trades the Knicks can make to get Damian Lillard.
Blazers receive: Mitchell Robinson, Obi Toppin, Frank Ntilikina, two future first-round picks
Knicks receive: Damian Lillard
To preface any of these trade scenarios, it needs to be widely recognized and accepted that the Knicks will have to give up a lot. But the return is one of the best point guards in the entire league.
In this scenario, the Knicks part ways with Mitchell Robinson, Obi Toppin and two future first-round picks.
Two picks is reasonable given a team with Lillard, Julius Randle and RJ Barrett won't be picking in the lottery. These picks would likely land late in Round 1 each year, thus minimizing the overall value.
Mitchell Robinson is coming off an injury-plagued year. While he has shown flashes in his first three seasons, he has had trouble staying healthy.
There is great upside with Robinson, and he has incredible athleticism for his size and the floor is already pretty high with him. If Robinson continues to develop and improve while staying healthy, he will be a starting player in the NBA for a long time.
Obi Toppin started his rookie season in miserable fashion but really came on late in the season and was noticeably more comfortable. Toppin was able to carve out a spot in Tom Thibodeau's rotation for the postseason and provided some legitimate minutes for the Knicks in the playoffs. New York remains smitten on Toppin, and for good reason, but to acquire someone like Lillard, it will take parting ways with at least a couple options that the Knicks love.
Blazers receive: Immanuel Quickley, Mitchell Robinson, two future first-round picks
Knicks receive: Damian Lillard
For Knicks fans, this trade scenario would sting a lot more. Sure, there's still just two first-round picks going the way of the Blazers, but New York would be sending Immanuel Quickley to Portland.
Quickley has become a fan favorite after a sensational rookie season. The 25th overall pick from the 2020 NBA Draft jumped right into focus during the preseason and carried all that momentum throughout most of his first year in the league.
Comparisons to Lou Williams have been made and the upside with Quickley is incredibly high, as it should be. However, as noted in the first trade option, any trade for Damian Lillard will require some heartbreak in sending pieces back that are beloved by the Knicks and the fans.
If there's a way for the Knicks to keep Barrett, Quickley and Toppin while still getting Lillard, it would be the magical dream scenario for New York. It just seems very unlikely. At least one of those three would likely head to Portland in any trade for the superstar.
In this scenario, the Knicks obviously get Lillard and the Blazers get a young center who has shown flashes and a guard coming off as solid a rookie year as anyone could've imagined. Both Quickley and Robinson would play into Portland's long-term plans moving forward.
Either of these two trades would figure to be a nice ballpark estimate of what a trade for Damian Lillard would look like. Julius Randle, who just made the All-NBA Second Team, had a career season. However, while he was Batman for the Knicks this past season, he's better suited playing the role of Robin. Lillard could come in and be the Batman and help this franchise take the big next step after they overachieved and pushed the rebuild plan timeframe way up.
New York won 41 games this season with Elfrid Payton as the primary starting point guard. Imagine what this team could do with a core of Lillard, Barrett and Randle. The future is awfully bright for the Knicks, and this offseason could present a perfect opportunity to make it even brighter.