Report: Knicks among ‘most aggressive suitors’ for perennial All-Star Damian Lillard

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Empire Sports Media 20 July, 2021 - 08:53am 8 views

The New York Knicks have been involved in numerous trade rumors last few days, emerging as aggressive players for Collin Sexton and now perennial All-Star Damian Lillard.

The Knicks and Lillard have been connected for quite a few weeks after reports of his frustration growing with the Portland Trailblazers’ front office and management emerged.

Seemingly, he anticipates sticking with Portland for next season, but if they don’t make the sufficient moves to upgrade the team and build around him, he could force his way out, landing him with a new club.

“I haven’t made any firm decision on what my future will be,” Lillard said, opening up the door for a team like the Knicks to make a splash.

According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, the Knicks are one of several teams to be in heavy pursuit of Lillard via trade:

Few team executives expect a Dame deal to happen this offseason. But multiple front-office sources say the Heat, Kings, Knicks, Rockets, and Sixers have recently been the most aggressive suitors.

Trading for Lillard would require the Knicks to part ways with significant capital in both the draft space and player pool. A prospective deal would undoubtedly include young players like RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, and even Obi Toppin. In addition, multiple first-round picks would have to be included, specifically the three first-rounders the Knicks contain this year, plus additional ones in the future.

The question is, is it worth ransacking the team for an elite point guard, then having to piece together a roster around him with little money? Lillard would simply be moving from one average team to another since he recently signed a four-year, $176.2 million extension. He likely understands that moving would require the other half of the deal to be massive, so the team he would be joining would be nothing compared to the season prior. Can Lillard and Julius Randle dominate alone with a minimal supporting cast?

With the Knicks containing $50+ million in funds if they elect to let their free agents walk this summer, being patient and building around their youth would be a more efficient strategy. Personally, with all the rumors involving the Knicks and point guards, I believe the front office is simply throwing their name in the hat to create buzz and interest regarding the team. This should help down the road during negotiations with potential PG free agent signings.

Alternatively, trading away the majority of their team would likely offer them $60-70 million in available funds, and with Lillard projected to earn $39 million next season, the team would have a bit of leftover money to sign fresh players. The problem is, their youth pool would be ravaged.

Read full article at Empire Sports Media

Is Dame’s Time Up in Portland?

The Ringer 20 July, 2021 - 02:01pm

Trade suitors are circling, but Lillard is giving the Trail Blazers a chance to build a better contender for him. Could a Ben Simmons–for–CJ McCollum deal be the answer? 

Lillard said he expects to return to the Trail Blazers for his 10th season, but that the front office needs to be “more urgent” about making improvements. That’s not exactly a long-term commitment. Here’s some information on what has happened regarding Lillard’s future and some thoughts about what could happen in the year to come.

Few team executives expect a Dame deal to happen this offseason. But multiple front-office sources say the Heat, Kings, Knicks, Rockets, and Sixers have recently been the most aggressive suitors.

Front-office executives say that if the Blazers eventually move Lillard, they can expect a return rivaling or surpassing what the Nets gave up for James Harden: multiple young players, plus three first-round picks and four first-round pick swaps. Harden is a former MVP, but he had only two guaranteed seasons left on his contract at the time of the trade. Portland could do even better because Lillard has four seasons remaining on his contract worth a grand total of $176 million. The long-term security in Lillard’s contract could lead to more interest from teams and more return in a trade.

But unless Blazers general manager Neil Olshey decides to blow it up and trade Dame before he demands a trade, it sounds like the team will have time to try and get things right. The question is how much time.

“I think if you look at our team as it is, going into next season,” Lillard said Friday, “I don’t see how you can say ‘This is a championship team, it just needed a new coach,’ when we just lost in the first round to a team that was hurt.”

Olshey claimed weeks ago that the roster wasn’t at fault for Portland’s 29th-ranked defense or its loss to Denver, implying that it was instead a coaching problem. But Lillard has seen Olshey whiff on draft picks, signings, and trades. The same year Portland added Seth Curry and Nik Stauskas, he saw the Raptors trade for Kawhi Leonard and win a title. Though the Blazers added Robert Covington, Lillard watched the Bucks and Suns make the Finals after trading for Jrue Holiday and Chris Paul.

Portland has made some good moves through the years, from acquiring Jusuf Nurkic to grabbing Gary Trent Jr. in the draft to trading for Norman Powell. But the Blazers have never made the type of blockbuster move that most championship-winning teams have managed. Portland’s most memorable move was also its biggest bungle: spending $70 million on Evan Turner.

If there’s a bigger question than time, it’s opportunity. Olshey and Lillard would both love to add another star. The trouble is finding one. In past years, Lillard remained loyal to CJ McCollum and the Blazers didn’t seriously pursue trades involving him. But even if they changed course and put him on the trade block, All-Star targets are slim.

Only Ben Simmons is readily available. A deal built around McCollum and Simmons could be the most realistic scenario. If Norman Powell opts out and re-signs, he could replace McCollum in the lineup. Simmons would provide All-NBA defense to a team in desperate need of it. And he could also offer playmaking from the frontcourt to complement Dame, who primarily runs the offense, and Powell, a versatile offensive threat. A Lillard-Simmons pick-and-roll would also have shades of Steph Curry and Draymond Green if Simmons embraced setting hard screens and becoming a weapon on the roll.

A Simmons-Nurkic frontcourt would have major spacing issues and likely necessitate other moves, but a few other tweaks could give the Blazers a brand-new identity.

The Sixers hope to enter the Lillard sweepstakes, not settle for McCollum. But there’s pressure on the Sixers front office to maximize Joel Embiid’s prime. And just like Simmons could be better in Portland, McCollum could be better in Philadelphia.

Through the past three seasons, including the playoffs, here’s how McCollum’s per-36 minutes stats compare when playing with Dame versus without him:

McCollum’s scoring volume and playmaking go up without Lillard, but his scoring efficiency dips. Playing with an elite big man like Joel Embiid could help create easier chances for him, and he could provide balance as a perimeter shot creator.

The Sixers could move Simmons elsewhere or hold out hope that Lillard or Bradley Beal becomes available. But both the Blazers and the Sixers should consider a McCollum-for-Simmons swap, especially since it could be Portland’s only chance for a big move before Lillard’s patience runs out.

Other than Simmons, there’s not a whole lot else immediately on the horizon involving top-50ish players. There’s no sign that Beal will push his way out of Washington just yet. Indiana seems prepared to move forward with both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. It’s tough to get a read on Kawhi, but the Clippers remain the favorites for now.

The Blazers don’t have much value to offer in trades, though. They don’t have their first-round pick this year, and a team betting against Dame staying long term needs their future firsts. Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little are their two most valuable young players, but teams aren’t all that high on them. Moving a veteran like Nurkic or Covington could net multiple valuable players in return as opposed to one better individual.

Some change is inevitable. Bringing back Powell is a priority, especially after giving up Gary Trent Jr. for him before the trade deadline. Enes Kanter and Carmelo Anthony will also hit the unrestricted market. Zach Collins, a long-lost lottery pick, will be an unrestricted free agent.

This free-agent class is a guard-heavy group, but Portland needs wings with versatility and bigs with perimeter skill. Since the Blazers are over the cap, the most they can offer is the non-taxpayer midlevel exception, which is worth $9.5 million.

Just speculating, here’s a list of bigs that could fit Portland’s price range: Gorgui Dieng, Blake Griffin, Daniel Theis, Kelly Olynyk, Nicolas Batum, or Jeff Green. Acquirable wings are guys like Tony Snell and Rudy Gay. Even Doug McDermott, Evan Fournier, and Kelly Oubre Jr. are probably all too pricey. Any other key free-agent target would realistically have to come via sign-and-trade. A shooter like Duncan Robinson or a big like John Collins makes some sense, but the Blazers would have competition for them and would have to give up something of value in return.

It’s hard to feel all that optimistic about Portland’s path forward. There’s a dry trade market. A shallow free-agent class. No financial flexibility. A lack of trade value. A disgruntled superstar. And the Western Conference will only grow stronger. The Lakers and Warriors are reloading. Young teams like the Mavericks, Pelicans, and Grizzlies are expected to get better. A playoff spot isn’t a lock for Portland unless impactful moves are made around Lillard.

Lillard could still eventually request to be dealt. If the Blazers are willing to move him to a team not on his preferred list of destinations—like the Pacers did by sending Paul George to Oklahoma City, or the Spurs trading Leonard to the Raptors—it could open up new trade possibilities. With that in mind, why wouldn’t the Pelicans offer a bunch of draft picks and possibly Brandon Ingram to pair Dame with Zion Williamson? Would Boston offer Jaylen Brown and future firsts? Would the Raptors try to strike again using whoever they pick fourth plus one of their young players and future picks?

Lillard is an MVP candidate with multiple seasons left on his deal. That is why mostly everyone wants him. It’s why the Blazers are reluctant to move him. Should the Blazers fall short of Lillard’s expectations again next season, they’ll get a haul in a trade, putting the franchise in good position for the post-Dame era. But Portland first hopes to assemble a roster that can support Lillard’s quest to win a championship. Some relationships grow stronger after going through hard times and some collapse. We’ll see which side this one falls on.

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Portland Trail Blazers 20 July, 2021 - 02:01pm

Heat, Kings, Knicks, Rockets, 76ers 'Most Aggressive' In Pursuing Damian Lillard Trade

RealGM.com 20 July, 2021 - 02:01pm

by Rafael Uehara

by John Wilmes

by Jack Tien-Dana

by Rafael Uehara

Tools and Resources Used by Real General Managers.

The Miami Heat, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers have recently been the "most aggressive suitors" for a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers for Damian Lillard.

Lillard has said he expects to remain with the Blazers next season, but he has become clear in his desire for more urgency in their efforts to contend for a title.

Should Portland eventually decide to trade Lillard, executives in the NBA expect the Blazers to receive a return for Lillard comparable to what the Brooklyn Nets sent the Rockets for Harden. Lillard is signed for four more seasons at $176 million total.

Tags: Damian Lillard, Houston Rockets, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, NBA, NBA Trade Rumor, NBA Misc Rumor

Norman Powell to Decline $11.6M Trail Blazers Contract Option

Bleacher Report 20 July, 2021 - 12:45pm

Portland Trail Blazers swingman Norman Powell plans to decline his $11.6 million player option for the 2021-22 NBA season to become an unrestricted free agent. 

Powell told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports he plans to test the open market rather than opting in.

Haynes noted that Powell is expected to have "multiple suitors" in free agency, with the Blazers planning to make him a "top priority."

The ex-UCLA Bruin ended the year as the Blazers' third-leading scorer behind the All-Star backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. He started in all 27 of his games with the Blazers, moving to a small forward role with Lillard and McCollum on the court together.

The 27-year-old spent the first five-plus years of his career with the Toronto Raptors, winning the NBA title with the franchise in 2019. He was a bench player for much of the first four years of his career, never averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

However, he broke out in 2019-20, averaging 16.0 points on a career-high 49.5 percent shooting clip and 3.7 rebounds. He started 26 of his 52 games.

The Raptors traded him to the Trail Blazers on March 25 in exchange for Rodney Hood and Gary Trent Jr. to ensure they could get players for Powell instead of potentially losing him for nothing in free agency.

That's where Powell finds himself now as he looks set to cash in on his stellar two-year stretch.

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O’Connor: Five Teams Have Emerged as ‘Aggressive’ Suitors for Lillard

Blazer's Edge 20 July, 2021 - 10:01am

The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor detailed the burgeoning trade market for Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard.

Before getting to the list of potential suitors, O’Connor explained that most league executives do not expect Lillard to be moved this offseason. After that, he presented five teams that are rumored to be actively pursuing the Blazers’ star guard.

Few team executives expect a Dame deal to happen this offseason. But multiple front-office sources say the Heat, Kings, Knicks, Rockets, and Sixers have recently been the most aggressive suitors.

O’Connor revealed that the belief is that the Blazers, if they trade Lillard, could receive a package that surpasses what the Rockets received for James Harden.

Front-office executives say that if the Blazers eventually move Lillard, they can expect a return rivaling or surpassing what the Nets gave up for James Harden: multiple young players, plus three first-round picks and four first-round pick swaps. Harden is a former MVP, but he had only two guaranteed seasons left on his contract at the time of the trade. Portland could do even better because Lillard has four seasons remaining on his contract worth a grand total of $176 million. The long-term security in Lillard’s contract could lead to more interest from teams and more return in a trade.

Lillard, who has earned six All-Star selections during his time in Portland, is under contract with the Blazers through the 2024-25 season. The final year of his contract contains a player option.

Along with Lillard trade speculation, O’Connor touched on a Sixers-Blazers trade centered around CJ McCollum and Ben Simmons. The story wraps up with a look at realistic options for Portland in free agency. O’Connor delivered a speculative look at a handful of players that could fall into the Blazers’ limited price range.

Just speculating, here’s a list of bigs that could fit Portland’s price range: Gorgui Dieng, Blake Griffin, Daniel Theis, Kelly Olynyk, Nicolas Batum, or Jeff Green. Acquirable wings are guys like Tony Snell and Rudy Gay. Even Doug McDermott, Evan Fournier, and Kelly Oubre Jr. are probably all too pricey. Any other key free-agent target would realistically have to come via sign-and-trade. A shooter like Duncan Robinson or a big like John Collins makes some sense, but the Blazers would have competition for them and would have to give up something of value in return.

You can read the full story from O’Connor at The Ringer.

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