Instant reaction: Kristaps Porzingis traded to Dallas Mavericks

What Just Happened??

Wow. What a day in the NBA. In the middle of the whole Anthony Davis saga, on Thursday, January 31st, 2019, some weird news came out of New York. Here’s a timeline of tweets from ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski, all Eastern time:

2:30 PM: Kristaps Porzingis expresses concern to management about the Knicks’ losing direction (Woj, Shelbourne, Lowe)

3:00 PM: Porzingis has left the impression that he prefers to be traded

3:20 PM: Nets, Clippers, Heat, Spurs, and Raptors are among many teams interested

3:40 PM: Dallas is finalizing a deal to land Kristaps Porzingis

3:50 PM: New York has agreed with Dallas on a trade that includes Kristaps Porzingis, Courtney Lee, and Tim Hardaway Jr., and Trey Burke for Wes Matthews, Dennis Smith Jr., and DeAndre Jordan. Draft picks may be included.

The Deal

Mavs get Porzingis, Lee, Hardaway, Burke*

Knicks get Smith, Matthews*, Jordan*, and a 1st-round pick

Contracts and Free Agency Implications

This is pretty crazy to write. What an unbelievable deal. In the middle of the Davis situation, no one expected this to go down. The first reaction most NBA fans had is… “That happened so fast”. And it did. Just over an hour after the first report of a Porzingis/front office meeting, the 7’3″ basketball prodigy is being sent to Dallas, in what almost seems like a salary dump.

Both veterans being sent to New York are expiring. That’s why there are asterisks next to their names.

Hardaway and Lee are both under contract for another season, and Hardaway has a player option for 2020-21.

A huge part of the Knicks’ motivation here was to clear cap space. Let’s get into that.

The Knicks’ Motivation

Let me clarify this first: I hate this trade for the Knicks. I see where they’re coming from, but I still strongly disagree with the decision. Kristaps Porzingis is a generational talent. He’s coming off an ACL tear, yes, but taking a look at his Basketball Reference page, I made a list of reasons that his trade value should be through the roof:

  • Height: 7’3″
  • Age: 22
  • All-Star in his 3rd season
    • 22.7 points per game
    • 2.4 blocks per game
    • 39.5% from three

The ACL is a real concern, yes. However, KP’s ceiling is absolutely insane. The combination of 2.4 blocks and 39.5% from three is unprecedented. He’s the only guy to ever average that. No one else has ever been close. And he did it as a 22-year old. So the value of Porzingis should be very, very high. Not quite as high as Anthony Davis, but very high.

However, we must consider the Knicks’ side here. Did they have to trade him? Did he want out? Well, we know that Porzingis “left the impression that he prefers to be traded”, but the truth is, he had very little leverage. Kristaps is in his fourth season, and he did not sign a rookie extension last summer. That means he’ll be a restricted free agent in a couple of months.

Here’s how restricted free agency works: Porzingis can go out and sign a contract with any team, but the Knicks have the right to match any deal. So if KP goes out and finds a $40 million, 4-year offer with the Clippers or something, New York can match that deal, keep him, and pay him that exact contract, money and years. That’s what happened with Zach LaVine this summer. So whatever deal Kristaps may have found, the Knicks could always match, and keep him. The worst-case scenario for New York would be Porzingis deciding to sign a 1-year offer with another team, forcing the Knicks’ hand. That, or he could sign the qualifying offer, which is also a 1-year contract. That would make him a free agent again in 2020, but unrestricted this time.

However, if the Knicks were able to sign Kevin Durant and/or draft Zion Williamson or another top 3 prospect, you’d think they would be able to make a pretty convincing case for Porzingis to stick around. His reason for being upset was the “losing direction of the team”. I would think they’d fix that direction, win more next season, and hang onto him. But they chose this path instead.

Without this trade, the Knicks would almost have space for a max free agent this summer. They’d have to make a small trade to clear enough money. Now, after getting off Hardaway and Lee, they have enough space for two max players. Here’s a list of free agents this summer that will probably be worth the max.

  • Kevin Durant
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Jimmy Butler
  • Klay Thompson

The Knicks made this trade likely hoping that they’ll sign two of those guys. They basically gave up Kristaps Porzingis for Dennis Smith Jr., and the chance to go after a 2nd free agent. They’re putting all their eggs in the 2019 free agency basket.

It should be noted here that the Knicks will have a high pick this summer. Zion, RJ, or Ja Morant will be a good building block for them. Pairing that rookie with DSJ and cap space isn’t an awful future, but they could’ve had that rookie with Porzingis and cap space.

What the Knicks really traded

They traded Kristaps Porzingis for Dennis Smith Jr. and enough space for two max free agents instead of one.

So this is the question…

Do you see the Knicks signing two of those guys?? If not, this trade wasn’t worth it in my opinion.

The Mavs’ Motivation

Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are on the same team.

Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are on the same team.

One more time…

Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are on the same team.

The greatest pick-and-pop combo in the history of basketball has been built. It’s these two. I haven’t quite thought that hot take through, but I’m actually pretty confident in it. The greatest pick-and-pop combo in the history of basketball has been built, and they’re 19 and 22.

Luka: 19 years old, borderline all-star, 20 points, seven rebounds, six assists, 36% threes
Kristaps: 22 years old, already an all-star, 22 points, seven rebounds, 2.4 blocks, 40% threes

That’s an absolutely deadly combo. Even if we assume the worst with Porzingis’s return from injury, that’s still an insane duo. Bill Simmons released a trade value rankings around a month ago, and he had Porzingis 17th and Doncic 5th in the entire NBA. Dallas now has those two players locked up for at least a season and a half, and you’ve gotta imagine that’s a pretty attractive situation for KP to stick around long-term. So what did Dallas lose?

The official terms of the deal haven’t been released yet. But it seems like the Mavs will be giving up a first-round pick in the trade. So they gave that up. They also gave up 2019 cap space. Apart from DSJ/Kristaps, the trade was pretty even, talent-wise. But the Mavs gave up two expiring deals for two longer-term deals. They gave New York the guys who will be gone this summer. and got guys that will be locked up. This makes sense. Did you think the Mavs were gonna sign a big free agent this summer? I didn’t. Now, they’ve got Luka, Porzingis, and two solid wings under contract for a season and a half. At least.

To be fair, they also lost DSJ, who’s a promising young player, but not near as promising as Porzingis.

What the Mavs really traded

They traded Dennis Smith Jr., a future pick, and their 2019 cap space for Kristaps Porzingis and good role players who will be under contract for a season and a half.

The Real Trade

Dallas trades DSJ, a 1st-rounder, and 2019 cap space to the Knicks for KP and role players that are under contract til 2020.

The Knicks would’ve been able to sign a max guy anyway. All they did was boost that to two, and trade KP for DSJ.

The Mavs wouldn’t have used that space for much anyway. They upgraded DSJ into KP and got some role players that’ll stick around.

Handing Out Grades

Dallas Mavericks: A

New York Knicks: D+

This seems pretty lopsided to me. It’s a borderline highway robbery, and the Mavs won the trade.

I grew up in a small town in Indiana, about an hour outside of Chicago. I’ve been a diehard Chicago sports fan my entire life, and basketball has always been my favorite sport. In high school, I founded a Sports Media Club, where my classmates and I wrote articles and produced podcasts. After graduating, I kept writing and podcasting on my own. Now I’m a freshman at Purdue University, and I am excited to join Lineups and continue to further the growth of the content side of the site.

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