With the NBA trade deadline still a week away, the next couple days leading into this weekend were expected to be a lull as teams continue to kick the tires on potential deals that can help them contend for this year, or build towards the next few years. However, that all ended today when, around 3:00 PM, NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that Kristaps Porzingis, the All-Star caliber Knicks center, had left a meeting with team officials feeling concerned about his future role and the direction of the team.
Less than an hour later, Woj updated his story with news that a trade had already been finalized and that Porzingis would be headed to the Dallas Mavericks, along with Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Courtney Lee. In return, the Knicks receive guard Dennis Smith Jr, DeAndre Jordan, and Wesley Matthews.
So, let’s get into this trade, who won, and who lost.
This trade has only been finalized for around an hour now, so this is still knee-jerk reaction time, but from almost everything I can think of, it seems that the Knicks got fleeced in this trade. Porzingis is one of the most unique players in the league today. His height, combined with his ability to shoot from outside and handle the ball, makes him one of the most unique players in the NBA today (ever?) and has led to his nickname, the “Unicorn.”
The Knicks are an extremely flawed organization. This decade, they have only made the playoffs a handful of times, and have struggled within the draft and in free agency to acquire players good enough to make a serious run at a championship or even just to be a legit force in the Eastern Conference- despite the fact that they play at one of the most iconic arenas in the world, in one of the biggest cities that, you would think, would make it very easy to attract free agents. This makes Kristaps one of the biggest winners in this trade- he gets to leave this organization after 3 years, and also join one of the biggest rising stars, Luka Doncic, in Dallas.
Luka Doncic has one of the brightest futures in this league. At only 19 years old, he is already a borderline All-Star, and at 6’8″, appears to have a very unique skill set that will make him a great player for the years to come. Now, still in his rookie year, his franchise is adding another young All-Star caliber player for him to run with, one who could potentially pair with him to make a deadly pick and roll combination where both players are over 6’8″, can both shoot from outside, and can both handle the ball.
Dennis Smith, Jr.
After having a bright rookie season, DSJ seemed to struggle this year up until this point to fit into the offense with Luka Doncic. The main problem seemed to be that Smith Jr, only a 34% three-point shooter, needs the ball in his hands to score and be effective. However, Doncic, who seems to be the better player and was also the higher draft pick, also needs the ball to maximize his passing ability and get the most out of the rest of the team. It appears that the Mavs have picked Doncic over Smith Jr, but he is winning here because he now gets to have a fresh start on a new team, and one that does not have much in the way of scoring and ball-dominant players to hold him back. Post-All-Star break, look for Smith to put up impressive numbers now that he will have the keys to the offense.
New York Knicks
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To me, the only way this trade makes any sense for the Knicks is if they have a verbal commitment from one of Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, or Kevin Durant that they are definitely coming there this offseason. By executing this trade, the Knicks opened up two max contract slots for this summer. So if they already know that one or more of these guys is coming to New York this summer, the trade makes perfect sense to open up that room. But if they are just hoping that they can convince them this summer, without any guarantees, this trade seems to make no sense to me. The Knicks haven’t been able to attract any huge free agents in the past few years, and they have done absolutely nothing in that time until now to change their perception league-wide as a flawed front office. Trading Porzingis, who represented your best chance at a superstar in years, and not forming the team and offense around him, is a poor decision when players like him do not come along often. It is assumed that DeAndre Jordan and Wes Matthews will likely be bought out and join a playoff contender. If not, they will be on the team, along with Dennis Smith, Jr, improving the team to the point of potentially knocking them out of a top-3 draft lottery position.
And seeing this cannot make Knicks fans happy so soon after Porzingis essentially told the Knicks that he would not give them another year and the benefit of the doubt, as he is doing essentially that if he signs this qualifying offer with the Mavs.
This trade will not be able to be properly analyzed until next year. Porzingis is still rehabbing an ACL injury that he sustained last season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t play the rest of the year. So, next year, once all the expiring players have chosen where they will play, and Porzingis actually suits up for the Mavs, we will be able to see if this trade is truly as big of a mistake for the Knicks as I believe it to be. Until then, we will have to just wait it out.