Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram treated image
Since reemerging as a competitive NBA franchise under Leon Rose, the Knicks have closely monitored the Damian Lillard situation in hopes of him requesting a trade to New York. Lillard is the rare top-10 player who, when available, can elevate a team to contention on his own.
It makes sense then for the Knicks to target Lillard as their next logical step forward, but they shouldn’t put all their eggs in one basket. Should he not request a trade or the Portland Trail Blazers demand too heavy a price, there are other options for New York to upgrade its roster this season.
Here are five non-Lillard trades the Knicks could look to make:
Mar 16, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) dunks in front of New York Knicks center Nerlens Noel (3) during the fourth quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
This may not be the most popular pick, but Simmons is rumored to be next to move after Dame, if they aren’t swapped. There’s a scenario in which Simmons is still a Sixer after Lillard moves, Philly drops some games and the market dries for his services.
It would be tough for the Knicks not to consider him at the right price.
Simmons is an All-NBA level defender and is built to be the perfect Tom Thibodeau point guard, an effective downhill threat to score or create. Of course, he’s drawn criticism for not doing these things quite as effectively or consistently in the postseason.
Still, if the price ends up being something around Evan Fournier, Kemba Walker/Derrick Rose and two or three picks/young players, New York should think about it. Simmons is still only 25, better falling into Julius Randle’s and RJ Barrett’s timelines than a veteran star, and could give the Knicks the best defense in the league.
Jan 2, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; New York Knicks guard Elfrid Payton (6) shoots the ball while Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) defends in the first quarter at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Turner spent the offseason working out with Randle and seeing his name in trade rumors, sometimes mentioned in the context of a Mitchell Robinson swap. He would arguably be an upgrade, but Indiana would not flip him for another center that kills spacing for its other star big man: Domantas Sabonis.
A better Turner package — for both teams — looks more like Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks and multiple first-round picks. The useful veterans will add to Indiana’s postseason hunt with the picks providing more value than Robinson would given their build.
As for the Knicks, their already impressive center rotation gets bigger and better, with Turner adding improved spacing to the lineup while New York gets to retain Robinson, one of its most prized prospects.
Jan 22, 2021; Sacramento, California, USA; Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox (5) shoots the ball against the New York Knicks in the third quarter at the Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
According to all publicly available knowledge, Fox isn’t actually on the trading block or looking for a way out of Sacramento. That said, his supreme talent, Kentucky ties and mediocre franchise make it difficult not to treat him as a potential coup should he begin to tire of continually missing the playoffs.
Fox is only 23 entering his fifth NBA season, and would be an All-Star on any other roster. He’s one of the quickest players in the league and an obnoxious defender, maybe the best fit for this roster out there.
Of course, this is all moot if he remains unavailable. If things turn around, the Knicks need to prepare a near-Dame offer sheet of young pieces and picks, which would be worth it.
Apr 18, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) drives to the basket past New York Knicks forward Reggie Bullock during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports
Another name included purely off conjecture, Ingram signed a max extension with New Orleans last season and also hasn’t appeared in rumors. That said, the Pelicans are on the clock to build a winner around Zion Williamson, and attempting to do so with this duo at its core has proven difficult.
Another poor showing from this team — which would not surprise — could mean a major break-up with Ingram serving as the key trade component. The Knicks would have to give up a Fox-level package that includes veterans and young guys/picks, which is understandable.
Ingram is another bright young star who’s put up back-to-back seasons with an efficient 24 points per game average. He theoretically gives the Knicks real length and scoring output on the wing, should New Orleans look to move him.
May 13, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks’ Elfrid Payton (6) defends San Antonio Spurs’ DeMar DeRozan (L) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Frank Franklin II/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago had a busy few months, assembling numerous All-Star talents around Zach LaVine in the hopes of bringing back their winning ways. Their latest acquisition was also their most controversial in DeRozan, who’s undoubtedly skilled but could be an odd fit, not spreading the floor or bringing defense to a lineup that’s desperately lacking in it.
Many NBA experiments go awry, and if that’s the case for the Bulls, DeRozan would be the natural first one out. If the Knicks aren’t enamored with Fournier’s play, shipping him and another veteran for DeRozan could be a win-win.
Although Chicago would be selling low, there didn’t appear to be a major market for DeRozan anyway, and if their core isn’t working there’s no reason to keep them together. They would receive better shooting and complementary help while the Knicks welcome another upgrade on the wing.