For the second consecutive season, the Portland Trail Blazers are fighting for their postseason lives. With two weeks left in the regular season, the Blazers currently occupy the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference and could be knocked out of the playoffs entirely through the play-in round. Blazers coach Terry Stotts appears to be on the hot seat, and with star Damian Lillard set to turn 31 this offseason, the sharks are starting to circle on Portland's best player. If Portland ever decides to pivot into a rebuild, there will be no shortage of suitors for the All-NBA guard.
Among them? The resurgent New York Knicks, who, thanks to their Kristaps Porzingis trade with Dallas, have a surplus of draft capital to include. On Friday, we got a brief idea of what the Knicks might be willing to put on the table for a star of Lillard's caliber. According to The New York Post's Marc Berman, the Knicks would likely be willing to offer three or four first-round picks in exchange for Lillard if it meant keeping youngsters RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin.
Based on recent trends, this likely wouldn't be enough to pry Lillard away from Portland if he ever became available. The Houston Rockets recently extracted four first-round picks, four first-round swaps and, though they dealt him, young star Caris LeVert in exchange for James Harden. Portland would surely ask for a similar package even if Lillard isn't quite as accomplished as Harden. The market doesn't particularly care. Superstars become available so rarely and are so critical to the pursuit of championships that teams typically have enough suitors to ask for almost anything they want.
In New York's case, that would likely mean Barrett, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Barrett is having a breakout season for the Knicks by averaging 17.6 points per game on significantly improved defense and 39 percent 3-point shooting. Without his inclusion, the Knicks will have a hard time trading for a star. Toppin, struggling through an underwhelming rookie season, still has value, but likely wouldn't be a centerpiece in such a deal.
If the Knicks could pair Lillard with Julius Randle and Tom Thibodeau's defense, they'd still trail Brooklyn and Milwaukee in star power, but they'd at least have enough to pose a real threat to the NBA's best teams. Sadly for the Knicks, Lillard has not indicated that he is interested in being traded, nor have any reports suggested that the Blazers are ready to consider moving their franchise player.