After writing about Anthony Davis‘ trade request yesterday (read here), I did not expect another major star to be involved in a trade. This most recent trade, the Kristaps Porzingis trade, was a shock to most of the NBA. Porzingis met with the Knicks ownership and just a few hours later the Knicks sent him to Dallas. For many fans, this was an unexpected turn of events for Knicks’ injured star. The trade sent Porzigis as well as Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke, and Courtney Lee to the Mavericks. In return, the Knicks received Dennis Smith Jr, two first round picks, and the expiring contracts of DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews. This trade should have a profound effect on both the teams involved as well as the upcoming offseason. Let’s get into it:
With the acquisition of Porzingis, the Mavs have assembled an incredible European duo. By pairing him alongside Luka Doncic, Dallas has two young stars to build around. If both players develop as expected, Dallas will be a legitimate title contender. Having Doncic will ease the physical burden on Kristaps, as some believe he isn’t able to carry a franchise physically. Given Dallas’ subpar offense (20th in offensive rating) and paint scoring (23rd in PIP), Kristaps should patch multiple weak spots. Additionally, his ability to spread the floor as a big should help Dallas. Although the Mavericks take the 5th most three-point attempts in the NBA, they rank 20th in percentage. In his last healthy season, Porzingis shot 39.5% from three on nearly 5 attempts a game. Having a big man that can dominate down low and along the perimeter will unlock new opportunities on offense for the Mavericks.
Unfortunately, all of these possibilities won’t be seen this year. Porzingis is unlikely to return this season, so we won’t get to see him play in a Mavericks jersey until next year. This will also cause the Mavericks to plummet in the playoff race as Deandre Jordan was arguably their second best player and DSJ and Matthews were important pieces as well. The players Dallas got back in the trade are all solid, but I don’t expect their playstyle to mesh with the team immediately. This trade was clearly made looking towards the future, and I believe it was the right decision. The Mavericks have struggled to sign free agents, so acquiring a star in trade was their best bet. They managed to find one that fit their timeline and one that was relatively cheap.
Assuming these future plans all work out well for the Mavericks, how will this affect the rest of the NBA? For starters, the West will continue to be extremely interesting. The Nuggets young core of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris will be on the rise and competing with the Mavericks year after year. The Kings with Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox as well as the Suns with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton will also be competitive in the future. This trade reinforces the imbalance of star power between the conferences as the West looks like a powerhouse for years to come.
A less favorable sidenote of this trade is the possibility of Kristaps leaving. Reports claim he is planning on signing the qualifying offer, making him a free agent in 2020. If the Mavericks lose Porzingis and don’t have their first-round pick this year (traded to Hawks) or the first rounders they sent to the Knicks they would be in trouble. This could lead to Luka being left in the same situation as LeBron James in Cleveland. The Mavericks would not be able to give Luka a supporting cast or help in the draft. This is obviously a pessimistic view of the trade, and personally, I hope it doesn’t happen.
New York Knicks
In another confusing move by the Knicks front office, the team traded away their previous franchise cornerstone. Even if Kristaps demanded a trade, I believe they could have found a better package. Given how quickly this trade occurred, the Knicks didn’t test Kristaps’ trade value. They got back a point guard they should have drafted two years ago, a pair of draft picks, and two expiring contracts. If Kristaps leaves the Mavericks in 2020 those draft picks will be extremely valuable, but if not, they will be in the late 20s.
Also, clearing cap space with expiring contracts doesn’t guarantee free agents will come. The Knicks now have room for two max players, but who will they use it on? Recent reports point towards Kyrie Irving resigning with Boston. Kevin Durant won’t join by himself. Jimmy Butler is already over 30 years old. I can’t imagine Kawhi Leonard or Klay Thompson signing there. Maybe they would get Kemba Walker and Nikola Vucevic? Simply put, It will be an uphill battle for the Knicks to sign big free agents to their rebuilding roster.
Nonetheless, this trade makes the upcoming offseason more interesting. While I don’t believe it will happen, there is a chance the Knicks hit it big this free agency. They will likely have a top 3 draft pick to pair alongside the two potential max players. If Kyrie and Jimmy still want to team up, New York is an option. If Kevin Durant wants to recruit somebody to play with him, he could also end up in New York. Assuming the Warriors break up, the Knicks could have a contending team next season. It’s hard to say if the trade was the right move for the Knicks until this offseason. Dennis Smith and future firsts are nice assets for rebuilding, but not worth trading a cornerstone-type player.
Overall, this trade has great risks and potential rewards on both sides. The Mavericks mortgaged their future for a star that could walk after one season, but he could also turn them into contenders. The Knicks gave up their franchise cornerstone with the hopes of attracting major free agents. If they fail to sign anyone, this trade will be ridiculed, but if they can attract a star or two this team will be better than they have been for years. The only thing that is for certain is that the NBA got a little more exciting after this deal.