Though the usual suspects in the Miami Heat, LA Clippers, and the New York Knicks were oft found linked to Damian Lillard as being possible trade destinations throughout the summer, ultimately, it was the Milwaukee Bucks who came out of left field to win the sweepstakes for the disgruntled superstar.
As first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on September 27, the tantalizing point guard was sent out to Wisconsin as part of a multi-team deal that saw the Portland Trail Blazers bringing back Jrue Holiday, Deandre Ayton, Toumani Camara, and a bevy of draft picks and the Phoenix Suns landing Jusuf Nurkic, Grayson Allen, Nassir Little, and Keon Johnson.
Now, though only three clubs wound up being involved in the trade, indirectly, the transaction has the potential to impact several others across the association.
Why the Damian Lillard blockbuster could wind up hurting the Knicks
The Knicks could wind up being one of these specific teams, and, unfortunately, it wouldn’t be in a good way if they were.
3. Elite East teams are widening the gap
Last season, the Knicks surprised the masses by claiming the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference standings with a record of 47-35 and clinched their first postseason series win since 2012-13.
As a result, both fans and media pundits found themselves clamoring about the potential New York has moving forward. Their offseason actions, headlined by the re-signing of Josh Hart and the nabbing of free agent Donte DiVincenzo to a four-year, $46.8 million pact, had some believing they could go on to win even more games this coming year and, in turn, move up the standings.
And while this still could happen, it doesn’t necessarily mean this team is any closer to winning a title than last season.
Frankly, with Lillard’s move to the reigning number-one seed out East, let alone the entire league, it seems New York’s odds of taking home championship banner number three any time soon have only decreased.
On top of this, considering many of the other top-billed teams in the conference have already and/ or can still very well improve significantly, such as the Celtics and Sixers (more on them later), it’s growing rather apparent that the gap between the Knicks and all these aforementioned elite teams is expanding right before our very eyes.
Though out West, the difference in status and pedigree between the recent sixth-seeded Warriors and the reigning champion Nuggets doesn’t appear to be all that significant, one should expect a major drop-off in the East this season when it comes to the top-three seeds and, unfortunately, the rest of the conference where Tom Thibodeau’s squad is currently projected to finish.