Thursday afternoon, it was reported that Kristaps Porzingis wanted to meet with upper management to discuss the direction of the New York Knicks. A few hours later the news broke that Porzingis would soon be on the move to the Dallas Mavericks.
The trade works for both ends: The Knicks will gain two expiring contracts in DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews Jr., giving them two spots for max contracts this offseason, while the Mavs gain an All-Star in Porzingis, along with a supporting cast of decent role players in Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke.
Though the Mavericks are gaining the All-Star big man, this move doesn’t positively affect their chances of making the playoffs for the time being. Currently sitting in 12th place in the Western Conference with a record of 23-27, the Mavs are five games out of a playoff spot.
What can the 23-year-old Porzingis bring to Dallas? Well, nothing yet, at least not until he is cleared from his injury. Porzingis has sat out the entire season thus far after tearing his ACL last February. However when he returns — projected to be in mid-February — he should give the Dallas Mavericks something they have been lacking: another young All-Star.
In the 2017-18 NBA season, Porzingis played in 48 games before he was injured. In that time, he averaged 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 1.2 steals per game, which was enough to have him named an All-Star. He only shot 43.9 percent from the field, but made 39.5 percent of his 3s.
With the Mavs currently out of reach from the playoffs, and Porzingis not being re-evaluated until mid-February, it will be interesting to see how the front office and coaching staff approach this situation.
One possibility is that Dallas tanks for a high draft pick. The Mavs will have one major problem until Porzingis is back: Who is going to round out the starting lineup? With Jordan averaging 31.1 minutes per game, Matthews averaging 29.8 minutes per game and Smith averaging 28.4 minutes per game, it becomes apparent Dallas has a lot of minutes to fill.
With a lack of height already a problem for the Mavs, and now even worse after losing Jordan, Dallas will struggle until Porzingis is back. If he is not cleared to play until next season, or if they intentionally hold him out, the Mavericks would fall deeper and deeper in the conference standings.
The problem with tanking in hopes of getting a good pick is that they only keep their 2019 first round pick if it falls between 1-5. In last year’s draft-day trade that sent Luka Doncic to Dallas, the Mavs parted ways with their 2019 first round pick, sending it to Atlanta with a top-five protection.
Another option the Mavericks could roll with is to attempt to contend. Courtney Lee, the 33-year-old shooting guard, had one of his best seasons ever in 2017-18. He averaged 12.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals a night. He has only played in 12 games so far this season, so he has not had much of an opportunity to show what he has.
Tim Hardaway Jr., a 26-year-old shooting guard, may be the steal of this trade. Currently in the highest-scoring season of his career, Hardaway is averaging 19.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. His ability to score the ball will be a huge help to the Mavericks, who are currently 20th in the league for points per game. With more weapons around him, he should be able to improve his underwhelming .388/.347/.854 shooting splits.
Trey Burke, the 26-year-old point guard, will also have no problem finding a way to contribute in Dallas. Only playing in 20.9 minutes per game, Burke is averaging 11.8 points, 2.8 assists and 1.9 rebounds per game. After losing DSJ, the Mavericks could possibly make Burke the starting point guard, where he will be a real threat. Burke’s 20.3 points per 36 minutes reflect this.
Don’t sleep on this Mavericks squad. The center spot is still a source for concern, but with their two leading scorers in Luka Doncic and Harrison Barnes remaining and the additions of Burke, Hardaway and Lee, they are not to be doubted.
Eventually, Porzingis will return and start a revolution in Dallas. When looking back in history, the dominant teams that have run the NBA always had a dynamic duo — Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Now, the Mavs’ future will hopefully be in good hands for a long time with Porzingis and Doncic.
By Kayode Hammed: (Twitter: @kayodemed)