LOS ANGELES — The New York Knicks got the NBA trade season started with a BANG by sending injured superstar Kristaps Porzingis (and others) to the Dallas Mavericks for Dennis Smith Jr and two expiring contracts. The timeline on this trade happened rather quickly, at least in the public’s eye, and sent shockwaves down the NBA community, mainly to Knicks fans. Regardless if you are a fan, player, or involved with a team, this was shocking. For those that are unaware, Kristaps Porzingis is very good at basketball. He is 7’3″ tall, can shoot threes block shots, and dribble like a guard, and he’s only 23 years old. So why did he get traded? Great question! Porzingis is coming off of a torn-ACL, which is a pretty big injury in the basketball world. He is also a restricted free agent at the end of this season — which means Porzingis is allowed to enter free agency, but the Knicks have the right to match any deal.
Let’s get into the details of the deal, what it means for both the Knicks and Mavericks and what it could mean for the rest of the NBA.
F Kristaps Porzingis
Yrs Left: 0 (RFA)
G Courtney Lee
Yrs Left: 1 Yr/$12.8M
G Tim Hardaway Jr
Yrs Left: 2/$37M
G Trey Burke
Yrs Left: 0
G Dennis Smith Jr.
Yrs Left: 2/$10M
G Wesley Matthews
Yrs Left: 0 (FA)
C DeAndre Jordan
Yrs Left: 0 (FA)
Two Future First Round Picks
^ It was announced on Jan 31 that Kristaps Porzingis will sign a one-year qualifying offer with the Mavericks, allowing him to be an unrestricted free agent in 2020.
What it means for the Knicks
The Knicks trading Porzingis isn’t actually all that crazy. Sure, he is only 23 years old, but he is coming off of a pretty significant injury to a body part that is important on a big man, especially a big man over 7’1″. Let’s go over some of the things this move does for the Knicks.
1. Officially Tanking for Zion
By trading Porzingis, the Knicks are openly tanking. Sure, Dennis Smith Jr is a nice piece, but he’s not going to win you a ton of games, at least not yet. This is saying to the league, “Hi, we are the New York Knicks, are we are officially tanking for Zion Williamson”.
2. Shreds the massive THJ contract
The Knicks were able to get off of the Tim Hardaway jr contract, which now saves them $18.1 million in 2019/20 and $18.9 million in 2020/21, and 2020/21 is a player option. OF COURSE he’s taking that. Tim Hardway is a fine player, at half that cost.
3. Expedited Expiring Contracts
The Knicks were able to move two players that expired 2021 for two players that expire in this offseason. Not only did the Knicks move Hardaway Jr (whose contract expires in 2022), they were also able to move Courtney Lee, whose $12.8M deal expires after the end of next season.
In return, the Knicks got veteran center DeAndre Jordan, who signed a 1-year/$22M deal with the Mavericks in the offseason, and is a prime buy-out candidate. The Knicks also got Wesley Matthews, whose contract expires at the end of this year. The Knicks were able to open up $40.6m in cap space with these moves heading into 2019.
4. This opens up cap space for 2019
The summer of 2019 is coming up and the Knicks just let the world know they are going to entering free agency with a shit-load of cap space. The Knicks have been rumored to about every free agent since… well since I can remember, and there is no shortage of free agents in 2019. The Knicks have been linked to Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Wilt Chamberlain, and The Rock. At the moment, the Knicks have only $30.8m in salaries on the books for 2019/20, and that number can go lower if they don’t bring back Mudiay.
5. Future Draft Picks
The Knicks acquired two first round picks in this deal. The first pick is an unprotected first-round pick in 2021, and the next is a protected pick in 2023. If the 2023 picks falls outside of the top 10, the Knicks get the pick — if the pick is a top 10 pick, the Mavs keep the pick, and the picks moves on to 2024.
6. Giving up on Porzingis
After all of the positives, there is only one negative … the Knicks just traded away a potential basketball 🦄 , and those are extremely rare. Porzingis is only 23 years old, has just played three injury-plagued seasons, and had shown flashes of brilliance at times. In 48 games last year, he averaged 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, while making 1.9 threes a game, but he tore his ACL on Feb 6, 2018 and has not played a game since. Porzingis has played in 76% of his NBA games since entering the league, and the Knicks didn’t feel comfortable paying him the max.
The Knicks could have opted to keep him with the Qualifying Offer, shred Hardaway Jr and Lee (might have cost them a pick), and see if KP is actually healthy. However, it seems that there was just too much turmoil between Porzingis and the Knicks front office. Porzingis’ first Tweet post-trade wasn’t one that thanked the city of NY or the Knicks fans that embraced him … it directly threw shade at the Knicks, while showing love to his new teammate Luka Doncic.
What it means for the Mavericks
1. Acquiring Porzingis to pair with Luka
The Mavericks and Mark Cuban might have pulled off one of the best heists in NBA history, and all they had to do was take on two bad contracts and give up one unprotected first round pick. Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic are two of the best European prospects this league has to offer, their games actually complement each other, and now they are on the same team. The Mavericks can now throw out two players that can flat out ball, and that is scary for most teams out there. Doncic has the ball in his hands a lot, and I can already see the lobs Luka will throw to KP on pick-and-rolls or pick-and-pops for three. KP did say he would enter free agency in 2020, but all signs pointing to him staying in his new home, where he will most likely make multiple All-Star teams.
2. Acquiring Floor Spacers
Getting Porzingis was a huge get, but the Mavericks also got some shooters to help with the spacing. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee aren’t deadeye shooters, but they have the ability to knock down shots, and in Hardaway’s case, get red-hot … fast. Sure, they overpaid for them, but it’s a small price to pay to get Porzingis in a Mavericks uniform. Trey Burke is a throw-in for salary, but the kid can flat out ball and has had a very nice run with the Knicks.
3. Porzingis Can Work With Dirk
Porzingis already had gifts had a big man. Now, he can really hone those gifts by working with one of the best 7-foot shooters this league has ever seen. I imagine in a few months time we will see KP pulling off Dirk fadeaways in his sleep.
4. Giving Up Draft Picks
Sure, the Mavericks gave up two first-round picks in this deal, one being unprotected in 2021. The Mavericks weren’t a bad team before the trade, but they weren’t exactly a good team either, as they were slated for the 10th or 11th pick in the draft. By adding KP, the Mavericks will most likely pick in the mid-teens or 20’s, especially by 2021, so overall it’s not all that bad.
I do like this deal for both teams, though at the moment it looks MUCH BETTER for the Mavericks. If the Knicks felt Porzingis wasn’t their guy, or he wasn’t resigning, they made the right move by trading him. The kicker here is if the Knicks sign Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, or a combination of one of those guys with another max player … then this trade looks a lot different. That is a long time from now, and a lot needs to happen in order for the Knicks to “win” this trade. Right now, the Mavericks have Porzingis and Doncic, while the Knicks have … cap space. Good news though, as Kyrie as shifted his stance from “I want to stay here if they have me” to “Ask me July 1.” This is going to be SO MUCH FUN!
Brandon Rosenthal is a writer, podcast host/producer, and an avid sports fan since the early 1990’s. He has been covering the NBA since 2016 for the30minutelunchbreak.com. You can view all of his posts and articles, and follow him on Twitter.