Kristaps Porzingis trade grades: Mavericks hit a grand slam; Knicks situation more complicated

So much for Super Bowl week. The NBA is king! 

Right in the middle of all the Anthony Davis trade talk, the New York Knicks, pretty much out of nowhere, have traded Kristaps Porzingis, along with Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke, to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews. New York will also receive a 2021 unprotected first-round pick and a 2023 protected first-round pick (1-10), according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Ian Begley.

Here are the grades for each team in this blockbuster trade:

Dallas Mavericks: A+

Dallas receives:

  • Kristaps Porzingis 
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. 
  • Courtney Lee 
  • Trey Burke

This is like when an athlete says they're going to give 110 percent. It's not possible, but you get the point. So whatever the highest available grade is, the Mavericks deserve higher. Like 150 percent. An A with like 20 pluses. Just an absolute grand slam of a deal. Unbelievable. Please look what the Mavericks have pulled off in less than seven months of time.

Before we go any further with the excitement, there is one small thing here that could burn the Mavs. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Porzingis hasn't yet committed long-term to the Mavericks and could still decide to sign the qualifying offer for next season. 

Here's what that means: Every player coming into restricted free agency, when the incumbent team has the right to match any offer on the open market, can accept a one-year qualifying deal for significantly less money to become an unrestricted free agent the next year. In other words, Porzingis could play next season for Dallas for $4.4 million, more than $23 million less than he is eligible to sign for, but by doing so he'll be unrestricted in the summer of 2020, meaning he could walk for nothing if he doesn't like the way things are going with Dallas. 

But that is a bet the Mavericks had to make. They have Luka Doncic. They are a smart, well-run organization. Lee, Harrison Barnes and Dwight Powell will all be off the books in 2020, meaning -- if Porzingis were to take the qualifying deal -- the Mavs could work their books to have cap space for additional talent in the same summer that they are also able to sign Porzingis to a max deal with his Bird rights. 

There is just no other way to look at this. The Mavericks are in unbelievably exciting shape projecting forward. Seven months ago they had the No. 5 overall pick with Harrison Barnes as their best player. Now they have Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and flexibility in hte near future to really start their run with these two guys in front. Amazing. 

New York Knicks: C

New York receives:

  • Dennis Smith Jr. 
  • DeAndre Jordan 
  • Wesley Matthews 
  • Two future first-round picks

Good news: The Knicks got a somewhat nice prospect in Dennis Smith Jr. to presumably be their point guard of the future. The bad news: They could've just drafted Smith in the first place in 2017 when they took Frank Ntilikina one pick ahead of him. Giving up the best asset your organization has had in decades for a guy you could've just drafted in the first place has Knicks written all over it. 

Still, they got Smith. Not great, but not terrible. 

The Knicks also get two future first-round picks, which is solid even if Dallas turns into a top-10 team. At least one first-round pick was pretty much a must for what was supposed to be your franchise player; to get two is all the better. Most of all, New York cleared valuable cap space by getting off Hardaway's money. DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews become immediate buyout candidates, but whatever happens, they both come off the books this summer, when the Knicks now project to have over $74 million in cap space. That's enough for two max players. A reminder of who's coming up on the market this summer: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins, just to name a few. 

The Knicks would've had enough for one of those players even before this trade. If they get two of them, we'll look back at this as a monster win. But that is a humongous "if." Understand, there was some urgency here for the Knicks to get something done not only as it became clear that Porzingis wanted out, but as the trade deadline approaches next Thursday. If that would've passed without a deal, Porzingis could've signed that one-year qualifying deal mentioned in the Mavericks section, which would've made him an unrestricted free agent in 2020 when New York could've lost him for nothing. 

The other scenario would've been Porzingis going the normal restricted free agent route this summer and forcing the Knicks to, again, match what presumably will be at least a relatively significant offer, and frankly, were the Knicks ever sure they wanted to saddle up with Porzingis long term as their attention turns almost entirely in the direction of much bigger fish this summer?

So, yes, there was some urgency to get this done somewhat quickly. That doesn't mean they couldn't have gotten an equal offer from a number of teams for Porzingis. There was another Dennis Smith Jr. out there. Plenty of teams would've taken on Tim Hardaway for two more years to get Porzingis. The two first-round picks? Don't know if that was out there. We'll never know. 

Here's the other thing: How will this affect the way they perform this season? If somehow these guys make them better and they win a few more games, and in doing so lose out potentially on a shot at the top overall pick -- probably Duke's Zion Williamson -- then we'll look back even more critically and wonder why they didn't just wait until the summer to trade Porzingis and keep losing this season. That said, they're still going to stink. So this isn't a huge part of this equation. 

So that's where we are with this grade. Somewhere in the middle. It depends a lot on what New York does with its newfound money this summer. Until then, a C feels right. 

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