The early returns of the Milwaukee-Damian Lillard trade aren’t just good; they’re great. He scored the most points ever in a Bucks debut with 39 in the team’s 118-117 season-opening win over the Sixers on Thursday.
The New York Knicks were one of the teams linked to Lillard after he requested a trade from the Trail Blazers in July. New York’s been linked to any and every star for the past few years, so that wasn’t a surprise. There seemed to be no real interest in Lillard, which makes sense given the Knicks’ timeline and point guard of the future in Jalen Brunson.
Milwaukee’s front office did what it needed to do to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo happy, and it resulted in the two-time MVP signing a three-year, $186 million extension earlier this week. The Bucks needed another star, and they got one of the best crunch-time players in the league.
Although Lillard’s entrance to the East has made things more challenging for New York, it’s encouraging to think about what the team could look like when they cash in their assets for a star.
Comparing Knicks-Damian Lillard hypothetical trade offer to Bucks package
Milwaukee gave up Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen, a 2029 first-round pick, and two pick swaps as part of the three-team trade with Portland and Phoenix.
The Bucks took a risk by letting Holiday go, an All-NBA defender who helped them win a title in 2021, especially since he was re-routed from the Trail Blazers to the Celtics. However, it helped them net Damian Lillard, which was their goal.
There were plenty of Knicks trade proposals floating around on the Internet that would’ve been enough for New York to get Lillard. Before Obi Toppin was traded, SNY’s David Vertsberger speculated that a package could include RJ Barrett, Toppin, salary filler, and at least three unprotected first-round picks.
Any NBA front office has to be willing to give up a lot for a star. Let’s take Joel Embiid, for example. The Knicks are reportedly willing to include Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Evan Fournier, and first-round picks in a deal for Embiid, but according to SNY’s Ian Begley, the Sixers were “unmoved” by that offer. Daryl Morey must want MSG, too.
Regardless of which star New York trades for, it will be a gamble. That’s what happens when you cash in draft assets and key players. So far, for Milwaukee, it’s worked out. One game is a small sample size, but the Dame-Giannis firepower will only get stronger.
Hopefully, whenever the Knicks make their big move, it’ll result in them not only being considered a true championship contender but an actual championship banner.