The New York Knicks will enter this summer well ahead of schedule in their rebuild, and have a number of trade chips to cash in for potential blockbuster deals.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau has helped New York overachieve to a large degree this season, and regardless of what happens in the playoffs, the Knicks’ morale is collectively much better. The question is, will they break the band up in order to land a legitimate superstar, or continue to roll with the pieces they have?
If New York does make a big blockbuster trade this summer, here are a few players they could target and what they’d have to give up to get it done.
New York Knicks trade for Damian Lillard
- Knicks get: Damian Lillard
- Blazers get: Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Frank Ntilikina, two 1st-round picks
Again, there are only a certain number of combinations the Knicks can play with if they want to land a player of Damian Lillard’s caliber.
This deal probably seems outlandish for Portland to even entertain, yet the Trail Blazers aren’t really going anywhere. They’re stuck in a crowded Western Conference and can only go so far with Lillard leading the charge.
By acquiring two more cost-effective players in Randle and Barrett, not to mention a stout perimeter defender in Ntilikina, Portland could have more lineup versatility, get collectively longer and allow CJ McCollum to assume primary lead guard duties.
Meanwhile, the Knicks get that star power they’ve been desperate for but have missed out on over the past decade-plus with Lillard coming to light up Madison Square Garden.
New York Knicks trade for Ben Simmons
- Knicks get: Ben Simmons
- 76ers get: Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, three first-round picks
Ben Simmons’ time with the Philadelphia 76ers hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. If the team fails to meet expectations in the postseason as the potential team to beat in the East, don’t be surprised to see Simmons being bandied about in trade talks.
Because of the fact that Joel Embiid has unlocked a new level of play this season, and with Tobias Harris occupying another massive salary cap hit, Philadelphia might look for more precise offensive players to drive its quest for a championship going forward. That’s a scenario in which Simmons would be shown the door.
Again, Randle and Barrett, along with significant draft capital, would need to go to the Sixers in order for New York to land someone of Simmons’ caliber in the prime of his career. The cost would be well worth it, though.
If it’s a defensive identity Thibodeau wants to keep building, who better to drive that than Simmons? Plus, the floor general is among the NBA’s best distributors. as long as Simmons had enough shooting around him, Thibodeau’s system could reach new heights with more of a game-changing ball-handler leading the offense.
New York Knicks trade for Bradley Beal
- Knicks get: Bradley Beal
- Wizards get: Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, three 1st-round picks
Yep, the exact same trade package here as the Simmons deal would send Bradley Beal to New York.
Beal isn’t afraid to buy in defensively, which Thibodeau would love. However, the fact that he’s so adept at being a playmaker off the dribble and working off the ball as a 2-guard makes Beal a most appealing trade target.
Randle and Barrett would be fascinating fits alongside Russell Westbrook in the nation’s capital. The historic triple-double machine would thrive off pick-and-roll situations with Randle, and Barrett gives the Wizards something they don’t have on the wing in terms of size and a dynamic, all-around offensive game that’s only going to improve.
Westbrook could get the absolute most out of Randle and Barrett, who are otherwise destined to be played into the ground under Thibodeau’s watch, which will also limit their immense offensive upside.
Speaking more to the Knicks’ side of the trade, Beal is the type of franchise-changing force New York would love to have.
The question is: Will the Knickerbockers dissolve the core of players that allowed them to wildly exceed expectations in 2020-21 in favor of a big-name box office attraction? Or will they stay the course, focus on retaining their own in free agency, make savvy additions on the open market and in the draft and try to take another step forward next season with most of the same players?
Merits to both strategies are plain to see. Among the trio of stars proposed herein, Simmons makes the most sense for what Thibodeau wants to build.