Knicks should make big push for Damian Lillard if he’s available

If you’re the Portland Trail Blazers, it is sensible to take heed to your franchise basis as a result of what he says is the plain, unvarnished reality.

“We didn’t win a championship, so obviously where we are now isn’t good enough,” Damian Lillard mentioned not lengthy after the Nuggets closed out their first-round sequence on Portland’s residence courtroom, profitable 126-115 in Game 6. “I don’t know what a shake-up looks like, or what changes will be made or could be made, but obviously as it is wasn’t good enough.”

That was the primary verse. This was the second verse:

“We came up short against a team without their starting point guard and their shooting guard. Will Barton didn’t play and Jamal Murray didn’t play and we came up short. Obviously, where we are isn’t good enough to get out of a first-round series.”

And this was the grand finale, later nonetheless, on Lillard’s Instagram feed, quoting rapper Nipsey Hussle: “How long should I stay dedicated? How long ’til opportunity meet preparation?”

The Blazers, in Lillard’s estimation, need to be broken up.

Portland’s first inclination, logic says, can be to interrupt it up round Lillard, who reestablished himself this season as one of many recreation’s most electrifying abilities. But the Blazers additionally had eight years to do that already. As Lillard mentioned: “It wasn’t good enough.”

Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard
Getty Images

So Plan B is that this: discover the very best deal you possibly can for Lillard, begin rebuilding that manner. Plan B is painful. Plan B will alienate a variety of loyal Blazers followers. Plan B would contradict a steadfast loyalty already proven by Lillard, who has three extra years and $140 million — plus a participant choice — due him and has been so dedicated to Portland that he purchased 5 acres of land in Stafford, 20 minutes exterior downtown, and commenced development on a personal basketball compound.

Plan B could be a bonanza for the Blazers, and there are groups wanting to pry Lillard — who will flip 31 on July 15 — from the Pacific Northwest. The Heat are suitors. So are the Clippers.

And so are the Knicks.

And so should be the Knicks.

It’s easy, actually: If Lillard’s available, the Knicks need to pursue him. They have belongings. They have 5 first-round draft picks throughout the subsequent three years. They must be keen to half with three of them to make Lillard occur, at the very least as a place to begin. They have 4 younger commerce chips of varied worth — Obi Toppin, Mitchell Robinson, Immanuel Quickley, Kevin Knox — to strengthen the deal.

Losing Robinson would harm, as a result of the Hawks sequence confirmed how badly the Knicks want a rim-protecting presence (with at the very least a modicum of offensive ability). Toppin and Quickley each had their moments as rookies, and each can be wonderful items. Knox’s commerce worth might have been diminished to nil by getting into Tom Thibodeau’s doghouse this yr, the equal of witness safety, however possibly the Blazers really feel in another way.

Beyond that? Portland will certainly at the very least ask about RJ Barrett. That one is hard. Barrett turns 21 subsequent week. He confirmed a robust upside and stronger work ethic with a capability for enchancment. He should be (together with Julius Randle) a constructing block for what the Knicks wish to create right here. That’s the one that would make Leon Rose sweat a bit.

But it’s important to at the very least take into consideration that, too.

Because it’s important to begin eager about the Knicks in numerous phrases. They expedited the clock by making the playoffs. Now they want extra. More means stars, and in a yr missing no-brainer franchise targets in free company — unless Kawhi Leonard unexpectedly decides to bolt from the Clippers — it’ll take a commerce to land that first exterior star.

What the Knicks yearn for — cry for — is a star guard. It can be great if Derrick Rose might keep and play the backup position through which he shone for a lot of the season. And it might be spectacular if the backbone round which the Knicks construct from right here is Lillard, who was 28.8 factors and seven.5 assists per recreation this yr on 45/40/93 p.c capturing, who’s 24.7 factors and 6.6 assists for his profession, who’s on the peak of his recreation — and whose mere presence would definitely assist recruit whoever the subsequent star goal can be.

The Knicks have the cap area to pay him. They have Johnnie Bryant on Thibodeau’s workers, and Bryant and Lillard are so shut Lillard calls Bryant his “big brother.” The two share ties each as Oakland, Calif., natives and from Lillard’s days at Weber State, when Bryant was working a sports activities academy in Salt Lake City.

The Knicks hung a shingle again in entrance of the Garden this season. If they add Lillard to the crew picture subsequent yr, they’ll formally declare themselves open for enterprise. If the Blazers choose for Plan B, that must be the Knicks’ Plan A — and B, C and D, too.

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