By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
Leave it to the NBA and its never-ending churn of player versus organization leverage to take what could be an otherwise quiet mid-season week and make it into a game-changing period.
The past few days have seen the Association steal headlines in a Super Bowl week like incompetent refereeing stole a spot in the big game from the still-weeping Saints Nation. As if the ongoing Anthony Davis trade rumors weren’t enough, an unexpected deal between the New York Knicks and the Dallas Mavericks swept everyone by storm Thursday and heated up just about everyone struck by the Polar Vortex this week.
In a trade formulated off the reported discontent of Latvian Unicorn
Kristaps Porzingis with the helpless team that drafted him, a quartet including him, Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke and Courtney Lee was traded to the Mavs for DeAndre Jordan, Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews and two future first-round draft picks. The news of the trade itself struck like a vicious combo punch less than an hour after initial reports of Porzingis demanding a trade after a bad meeting with Knicks brass leaked out via ESPN Thursday afternoon.
Takes have flew fast and furious since this trade became official, many if not most choosing to harp on the Knicks and their established losing culture with thoughts focusing on how the Knicks can give away quite possibly the franchise’s most talented player since Patrick Ewing.
If you ask me this was a winning trade for both teams, maybe one side will win more but it’ll take time to figure that out. This was definitely a transaction that will have major long-term factors associated with it and, Twitter jokes or not, we have to let the dominoes set up by this trade fall before this can be deemed another low point for the Knicks franchise or the beginning of a return to glory for the Mavs.
The Mavs are being seen as early winners in this trade as the were able to build on top of their already successful rebuild with an All-Star-level player and quality complimentary talent. This season allowed Dallas to quickly realize that its 2018 first round selection Luka Doncic was the future of the franchise and not Smith Jr. It was only a few weeks ago when DSJ was willingly sitting out of Mavs games while he pressed his organization to find a landing spot for him. It would seem that the Knicks were in on the negotiations at least by that point.
What results from DSJ not playing along with the Doncic movement is Dallas moving Smith Jr. and bringing in assets that can benefit Doncic offensively, primarily an early 20-something European who the rookie can identify with and who is willing to create off Doncic’s passes without needing to bring the ball up court himself.
Beyond Porzingis, Dallas can think fondly of bringing in Hardaway Jr., who for the most part has under-performed under his $77 million dollar contract, but as a relatively streaky shooter can score the ball at a very high rate when he’s feeling it.
New York gave the Son of the Killer Crossover big money to be a focal point of an under-performing team in a big market, which can brings immense amounts of pressure that not everyone can love up to. Now playing in Dallas, he’ll be no more than a third option on most nights, which can be beneficial and provide more weight to Hardaway Jr.’s per-game averages (19 points/3 assists/4 rebounds) while also improving his efficiency now that the spotlight isn’t as bright and pressure is not so mounted on him to steer right his franchise.
Of course, the key to this trade was Dallas willing to take a flyer on who it has to see as the league’s Dirk Nowitzki 2.0 in Porzingis. Although out with a torn ACL currently, the Unicorn has the chance to play twin roles of mentee and mentor as he builds on his relationship with his idol and future Hall of Famer Nowitzki while also growing and playing alongside Doncic, a player whom he truly respects.
Porzingis’ offensive skillset is an ideal match for the rookie star, and pairing them together, especially in a pick and roll situations, will be tough for any team to guard. The future is bright for the Mavs, but Porzingis has to stay healthy and not only stay healthy, but also be willing to commit to the team long-term, he can re-sign with the team on a long-term contract or sign a one-year qualifying offer and be an unrestricted free agent in 2020.
Back in devastated Gotham, the Knicks are using this trade to clear their table and make it pretty enough to draw in some upcoming free agent big boys. It could be devastating on one hand to admit that they couldn’t impress one rising young talent in Porzingis and that he bailed on their current rebuilding plan, but in taking action now the Knicks were able to get a quality return for their short-term investment, which ironically was headlined by a guy they should’ve drafted with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2017 draft.
DSJ will at least have the chance to flourish in NYC while its already looking like the more veteran talent Dallas is sending over could be set free to join contenders for the rest of this season.
By trading Hardaway Jr.’s expensive contract and pick up the expiring contracts of Jordan and Matthews, players with which the team will most likely buyout or trade, allows the team to still follow the kind of strip-down plan of developing young talent while clearing their books, keeping their place in the race for Zion Williamson in the 2019 year’s draft and preparing their sale pitches to enter into the 2019 free agency sweepstakes.
With a projected $71 million in cap space coming to them this summer, the Knicks should have enough money for two max players, with some left over to make quality moves for veterans that are willing to take less and join the legendary franchise’s new movement. New York is reportedly targeting Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as those future max players — with growing uncertainty of Irving’s long-term commitment to Boston bubbling, any rumors of KD and Uncle Drew becoming teammates in Orange and Blue can be taken more and more seriously.
At the least, the Knicks have to get at least one max player to land in the City this summer to stave off harsh criticism that’ll stem from their deal this week. With a new front office and a player-friendly coach in David Fizdale, acquiring max player talent may not be as difficult as its been in past years, but the shadow formed from losing out on trans-formative talents since 1985 makes it hard for Knicks faithful to see beyond the darkness immediately around them.
The future for the Knicks has potential included, but maximizing that potential starts with bringing a superstar talent and nothing less to be the face of the legendary franchise this summer, the spot is once again open in the NBA’s biggest market and who knows how long that’ll be allowed.
Joshua M. Hicks is the lead columnist of WARR