My unfailing loyalty as a fan of the New York Knicks has inevitably led people to ask me about my opinion of the trade the team made last week with the Dallas Mavericks. The interest level of my friends and colleagues from my perspective as a writer, who at one point in my career, published many articles in sports writing.
The move by the Knicks front office was a bold one sending a once beloved rising star, Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas. New York also packaged Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, and Trey Burke to the Mavericks in this deal. The Knicks received point guard Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, and Wesley Matthews from Dallas.
The methodology behind the trade was clear: Porzingis requested a trade in a meeting the Knicks had with him the day before the trade, the team also needed to clear salary cap space, and the Knicks had a logjam at the shooting guard position they solved by moving Lee and Hardaway, Jr in this transaction.
Lee was saddled with a big contract and did not have a defined role with the Knicks in Coach David Fizdale’s system. Hardaway Jr took far too many shots and was also very inconsistent this season while carrying a huge salary. Porzingis has not played at all because of the ACL injury to his knee and has been injured often in the early stages of his NBA career.
My opinion of Porzingis is that he was not a team-first player. He was acting like he was an All World player and he has never won anything or taken the Knicks to the playoffs. Porzingis has always been preoccupied with one thing: himself. I am not a proponent of players who act that way and I am not sorry to see him shipped out of New York.
The press conference held yesterday in Dallas officially confirmed that Porzingis will not be playing this season. The rumor mill was buzzing around NBA circles because apparently the Knicks were pushing for him to return this season. The Mavericks decided not to press the issue because their team is not going anywhere this season and Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, is going to play the “long game” here with Porzingis.
The rumor mill was also speculating that Porzingis did not want to go to Dallas and that the Knicks made the best deal that they could for their franchise regardless of the desires of their former star player. The rumors persisted that Porzingis was planning on not signing long-term with the Mavericks; a topic that Mark Cuban quashed in the press conference by stating that Porzingis would be paired with his other European star player, Luca Doncic, “for the next twenty years”.
The media then asked Porzingis if he was on board with that plan and he replied very softly: “we are on the same page”. So the Knicks basically sent this guy packing into a situation that he was not on board with, and now he is stuck on a Mavericks team in a very similar stage in their rebuilding as the Knicks.
However, I would argue that the Knicks are better positioned to get significantly better in a shorter time frame than the Mavericks will after this trade. New York also received draft picks from Dallas that brings them to eight draft picks under their control that they can use as pieces in a trade for a star player.
The Knicks also have close to $75 million in salary cap space for next season after this trade which will allow them to get two max-level contracts and they can trade for that third star level player. The team already has some good young talent on the roster that they can develop this year, and they will have a very high draft choice based on their finish in the standings this year; potentially the first pick in the draft.
New York could have the best chances for the first overall draft selection if they finish with the worst record (which they are on pace to do so). The consensus top pick for them could be Zion Williamson from Duke. He would fit their roster and their style of play very well.
The free agent class this summer is tremendous and loaded with star players in their prime production years: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and Al Horford. The Knicks are poised to land two big name free agents and could trade for a star like Anthony Davis, who requested to be traded out of New Orleans two weeks ago.
I have read the accounts that the Knicks have been told by back channels that Durant is coming to The Big Apple in free agency. In my opinion, whether they get Durant or two other big-time star level guys, either way I do not care. The fact is that they can get these guys now that they traded Porzingis.
The past versions of the Knicks would have kept Porzingis and tried to get one or two other mid-level star type players to try to pair with him and be a middle of the road team that might make the bottom half of the playoff tier in the East. The Knicks dumped a lot of salary and any chance of being even remotely competitive this year in order to have a “clean slate” to build a team starting with the 2019 free agency class and the draft.
Some feel that the trade was a blunder and that they did not get enough in return, especially in light of the fact that they are trying to move Wesley Matthews by the Thursday trade deadline or buy him out of his contract. There are fans and media analysts alike that feel that the Knicks made a bad trade, that Durant will not end up with the Knicks, and that the whole thing will be a blunder in typical Knicks fashion.
My view is different as I never thought Matthews would fit or actually play in any games for the Knicks. The acquisition of Matthews allows the team to clear even more salary cap space for next season, which could become a major factor in getting that third star to play at Madison Square Garden.
New York also received a young point guard in Dennis Smith Jr, who could become a more dynamic playmaker than any guard they had on their roster. The center position is upgraded with them gaining DeAndre Jordan, who in my view has always been undervalued by the media and fans of the sport.
The Knicks will emerge from this trade and be rid of a guy in Porzingis who complained more than he did anything meaningful for the team. They will have the opportunity to play all of their young players this year with Hardaway and Lee off the roster. That will be an invaluable period of evaluation of these players to determine how they will shape their roster for next season.
In the end, I believe that this bold move will pay off and that whether the Knicks get Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving or not, they will be in a much better position to win than if they kept Kristaps Porzingis and had less salary cap flexibility. The next seven or eight months will tell whether my position on this trade will be correct or whether the Knicks will swing and miss on remaking the franchise into a championship contender for their long-suffering fans.