The Dallas Mavericks acquired the New York Knick’s all-star forward Kristaps Porzingis on Thursday as a part of a seven-player trade. The exchange swapped the Maverick’s Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, DeAndre Jordan and two future first round picks for Knicks players Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke and Courtney Lee.
How it happened:
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Porzingis left a meeting with Knicks’ management with “the impression he prefers to be traded” at 11:54 a.m., and 56 minutes later, Wojnarowski broke the news of the blockbuster trade as well. Porzingis’s relationship with the Knicks had been deteriorating for months, largely over frustrations of his former team’s 10-41 record and puzzling management decisions.
The largely unknown at the time 7 foot 3 inch Latvian was drafted in 2015 under Phil Jackson’s management. He was introduced to the franchise much to the dismay of myself and other fans, but quickly grew into a favorite as the “unicorn” or “Porzingod” dominated the court. Aside from this pick, however, Jackson’s three-year tenure ending in June 2017 was marked by mistakes that severely hurt the team. His most notable failures were sporting the worst Knicks record of all time, hiring and then firing three different coaches, signing bench player Joakim Noah to a four-year $72 million deal and disrespecting former superstar player Carmelo Anthony to the point that he wanted to transfer teams. The turmoil that has accompanied the Knicks since the Jackson era simply escalated to the point that Porzingus wanted out of New York.
The Mavericks made a low-risk move that now puts them one star away from being serious title contenders. Rookie sensation Luka Doncic, averaging 20.4 points per game, 6.9 rebounds, and 5.4 assists on 43.3 percent shooting will now be teammates with essentially a young Dirk Nowitzki on a team already showing flashes of greatness. In a competitive western conference, the team’s 23-28 record is more impressive than it appears.
The only trade uncertainties for Dallas surround Porzingus’s return from last February’s torn ACL, but he has begun individual workouts again and is even back to dunking. In the trade, the Mavericks also took on the $54 million contract Hardaway Jr. is owed over the next three years, but in a new role on this Mavericks team, he should be worth the salary. What Mavericks coach Rick Carslile can do with his newly acquired talent in the upcoming could very well result in a championship.
Trading Jordan, Smith Jr. and Matthews for the players the Mavericks received in return was a steal. Smith Jr. had sat out for weeks for “business” reasons as Carslile put it, but it is believed that an unstable relationship with the organization was behind his absence.
Jordan and Matthews were not of long-term importance to the team, and both are free agents after this season. In essence, the franchise simply swapped Smith Jr. and two draft picks for Porzingis and a few solid role players. The only obvious issue is that the Mavericks now only have a first-round draft pick every other year for at least five years, making it hard to build through the draft.
Porzingis put the Knicks in an unfortunate position as the result of his meeting with team officials, but this trade still simply did not make too much sense. Although there is speculation that the Knicks had been shopping Porzingis for up to weeks, formalizing a deal less than an hour after the meeting was rash. The decision-making process highlights the Knicks dysfunction, and a Feb. 2 Instagram story post by Porzingis raises concerns about what went on behind the scenes. It reads, “The city deserves better than that… My suggestion for knicks fans is to STAY WOKE!! Peace.” A more calculated approach, leveraging teams and entertaining more offers, could have better benefited the team.
Even purely focusing on the players exchanged, the trade was poor for the Knicks. Considering the Knicks are unlikely to resign both Jordan and Matthews once the one year remaining on their deals expire, the trade appears like this when boiled down: Porzingis, Hardaway Jr and Lee for Smith Jr. and two future first round draft picks. Dennis Smith Jr. could be the starting point guard for years to come, but there is a low chance those two picks end up being in the lottery, lowering their worth. The real, and possibly only depending on the future, plus for the Knicks from this trade is the newfound cap space. After this summer, the team will have about $73 million in cap space, enough to sign two max free agents.
This summer’s free agents are highlighted by Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker and Jimmy Butler. Assuming the Knicks finish the season with a bottom three record (they are currently in last place), then the team also has a 14 percent chance to have the first overall pick. Knicks fans are heavily excited by this prospect, as this means the team can draft the much-coveted Duke superstar freshman Zion Williamson.
If all goes well, this trade could ultimately send the Knicks to the playoffs first time since 2013, or even to their first NBA Finals since 1999. But if this bright future does not play out, as it very well might, then this trade will be remembered as one of the worst in the history of the NBA. As much as I’m hoping New York secures two superstars, this is the Knicks. I will not be surprised if the franchise’s pattern of incompetence continues, and I waste one more year of my fandom watching my team lose.