Friday night, the New York Knicks fell to the Miami Heat in Game 6 of what proved to be a highly competitive Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup. Now, the franchise will look to build off its surprise successes from 2022-23 by making some savvy moves during the upcoming offseason with talent bolstering being a presumed emphasis for the front office.
Considering the Knicks will be able to offer any impending free agent an annual salary of $12 million at the max, should they be looking to add a star-level player to the fold, it’s safe to assume that their best course of action will be to scour the trade market for any potential deals.
Already, there are several top-flight names rumored to be inching their way toward becoming available through trades this summer. And of the bunch, three in particular should be closely monitored by Leon Rose and company.
Knicks trade target No. 3) Karl-Anthony Towns
Ever since his former agent Leon Rose took on the role of President of Basketball Operations in March 2020, Karl-Anthony Towns has been linked as being a possible trade target for the Knicks.
Now, after a self-described “failure” of a season, it is believed that the star big man could be open to moving on from the franchise this summer, and some league sources believe that he may have his sights set on the Big Apple.
Throughout his eight-year NBA career, the 27-year-old has established himself as one of the game’s elite offensive centers and boasts impressive averages of 23.0 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.2 blocks while shooting 52.6 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from distance.
Of the three names mentioned here today, Towns may prove to be the easiest of the bunch for New York to attempt to acquire.
Considering the Timberwolves would still be in the mindset of staying competitive should they move on from their star big, as they’d likely still have All-Stars Anthony Edwards and Rudy Gobert in tow, perhaps a package centered around Julius Randle and draft capital could be an easy and enticing-enough starting point in a hypothetical negotiation.
However, from a Knicks perspective, the concept of seeing Towns reunite with his former T-Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau may be a bit daunting, as the two were rumored to have butted heads during their tenure together in Minnesota.
That said, the latter has been noted as being “open” to the idea of the franchise acquiring Karl-Anthony Towns. The jury’s still out on if the feeling is mutual, however.
Knicks trade target No. 2) Damian Lillard
Like Towns, Damian Lillard has been viewed as a legitimate trade target for the Knicks for quite some time now. And just recently, a league executive told Heavy on Sports’ NBA insider Sean Deveney that the star guard could be the “focal point” of this offseason with New York being “the most interesting place for him” to land.
Though the Knickerbockers already seem to have their long-awaited franchise point guard in place in the form of Jalen Brunson, if this postseason showed them anything, it’s that their roster lacks the shot-creation abilities and, most importantly, the high-end talent necessary to contend for a championship. Adding a player like the seven-time All-Star could be a way to address this need.
A backcourt tandem consisting of Lillard and Brunson would automatically rival any other club’s top guard assortment in the association while also providing the Knicks with two top-notch offensive creators.
Despite the fact that the Portland Trail Blazers fell short of a playoff bid this season, their franchise centerpiece still proved that, even in year 11, he’s capable of producing at an elite level.
In 57 games played in 2022-23, Damian Lillard posted sensational per-game averages of 32.2 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 46.3 percent shooting from the floor and 37.1 percent shooting from distance.
Of course, there are certainly some concerns when it comes to the hypothetical acquisition of the veteran guard. Considering he still has two years, $94.4 million remaining on his current deal, there’s a serious financial commitment that will come with such an acquisition, while his 82 games missed over the last three seasons certainly do not instill confidence in his ability to remain healthy for a full season.
Even so, the contributions a healthy Damian Lillard can provide to a team could be argued as being worth any risk that may come along with him.
Knicks trade target No. 1) Luka Doncic
If you want to make a blockbuster offseason trade, you might as well aim for the biggest name rumored to be a potential option on the market.
Though nothing has been confirmed, a number of rumblings have presented themselves since Dallas failed to qualify for the NBA Playoffs that suggest there could be trouble in paradise between the Mavericks organization and their franchise cornerstone, Luka Doncic, with ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reporting that there’s internal fear that the superstar could request a trade.
Should this happen, many of the league’s other 29 teams will be looking to get in on the sweepstakes. And the Knicks should absolutely be one of them.
A player of Luka Doncic’s caliber is something that is only seen once in a blue moon. With his ability to score, facilitate, and rebound, he covers an enormous amount of bases within a team’s scheme and can seemingly slot into any position from the one down to a small-ball four.
Despite Dallas’ shortcomings as a collective, the four-time All-NBA selectee is coming off of one of his best seasons. He averaged 32.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 8.2 assists, and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 49.6 percent from the field.
As was seen this season, the Knicks are on the right track toward becoming a legitimate powerhouse out East. However, they still are without a superstar like elite teams such as the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, and Philadelphia 76ers. Adding Luka Doncic to the lineup could catapult them ahead of all three of these clubs heading into next season. And the concept of seeing him and Jalen Brunson reunite as teammates could make for a true fairy tale story.