If you’re putting together potential trade packages for Damian Lillard, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Even after trading for Lillard, the Knicks can still have significant cap space in the 2021 offseason.
Of the five teams we asked about potential Lillard packages yesterday, none said the Knicks could get a deal for Lillard done without including RJ Barrett.
“(Portland) can’t do the deal just to get picks back,” one opposing team said. “And you’re not getting it done without four (first round picks) and players.”
The Knicks have five first-round picks over the next three drafts. They own all of their first-round picks moving forward. So they have the draft capital to trade for a disgruntled star.
Of course, none of the speculation matters until Lillard asks the Blazers for a trade.
According to a Yahoo Sports report, several issues between Lillard and the organization could lead to the superstar asking to be traded.
The Knicks have been keeping an eye on the situation in Portland, and they feel well-positioned to be able to trade for a star player.
With that in mind, we’ll take a look at a few different Lillard trade scenarios for New York (special thanks to CBA expert Albert Nahmad for the assist):
Trade Scenario #1: Trade RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, a 2021 first round pick, 2023 first-round pick, pick swaps for 2022 and 2024 for Damian Lillard
Lillard makes $39 million and Barrett/Toppin/Quickley make a combined $16 million. This means the Knicks would be taking on 23 million in salary in the trade. It also means the Blazers would save 23 million in the trade, which would help Portland get under the luxury tax.
(Teams who can’t absorb a portion of Lillard’s deal – such as the Lakers, Sixers, Pelicans and Warriors – can help Portland save as much as $8 million in a trade).
In order to absorb the extra $23 million, the Knicks could renounce their rights to all free agents and get rid of all players who don’t have guaranteed salaries. This would leave them with roughly $28 million in cap space. They could also use some of that $28 million to keep the cap holds of current free agents. The club would have the $4.9 million Room MLE (mid-level exception) to spend in free agency after all of its cap space was used up.
The Knicks can also complete the trade above while keeping the cap holds on free agents like Derrick Rose. To do so, the Knicks would need to renounce cap holds (or waive non-guaranteed salary) totaling to at least $22 million.
The cap holds and non-guaranteed salaries of their players are as follows:
*One of those picks are included in the proposed trade above*
Trade scenario #2 Trade RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, Mitchell Robinson, a 2021 first round pick, 2023 first-round pick, pick swaps for 2022 and 2024 for Damian Lillard
Robinson could be swapped into this trade for Quickley without a significant change to the outgoing salary. New York would have to exercise the 2021-2022 team option on Robinson’s contract first.
Everything else in the scenario above applies to this deal.
(If the Knicks wanted to match salaries with Portland instead of absorbing most of Lillard’s deal into cap space, they could send Robinson to Portland in a sign-and-trade on a deal worth $15.5 annually. This would hard cap Portland at the apron, but they’d get Robinson on a multi-year deal. Robinson, of course, would have to agree to the sign-and-trade. The Knicks would also have to decline his team option in this scenario).
But New York could gain more salary flexibility by sending Barrett, Toppin, Robinson, Quickley and a combination of first-round picks to Portland in a deal for Lillard. This would leave the Knicks with roughly $40 million in space if they renounced the rights to their remaining free agents and waived players on partially-guaranteed deals. (See the list of cap holds and partially-guaranteed deals above).