The New York Knicks are entering a new era as they have traded Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks in a blockbuster deal on Thursday afternoon. New York will bring back Dennis Smith Jr. and clear a bunch of salary in the deal, receiving the expiring contracts of DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews and sending Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee to the Mavericks. The Knicks will also get two future first-round picks from the Mavericks.
For the Mavs, this is about giving Luka Doncic a co-star to build around for, ideally, the next decade-plus. For the Knicks, this is about creating the cap room to chase two maximum-salary free agents this summer, and severing ties with a player who has reportedly been dissatisfied with the direction of the organization. Dallas will be praised for being bold, just as it was when it acquired Doncic on draft night, and it will be impossible to judge New York's decision without seeing if the front office can actually convince superstars to come play at Madison Square Garden.
Porzingis hasn't played a game this season, but he was reportedly due for another evaluation in mid-February. Porzingis has been dealing with an ACL injury all season, and he was traded the same day he reportedly voiced dissatisfaction with the team on Thursday.
According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, this deal doesn't come without strings for the Mavericks. Porzingis reportedly plans on signing the team's qualifying offer of $4.5 million, allowing him to be an unrestricted free agent a year ahead of schedule.
According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, however, no decisions have been made on that front just yet. Porzingis wants to get to know the team and rehab his ACL, so his status is up in the air.
The Mavericks are currently 23-27, 12th in the Western Conference. Needless to say, however, the move to acquire Porzingis while he was still injured was an investment. Porzingis signing the qualifying offer, however, would change the outlook of this trade.
According to projections from SportsLine data scientist Stephen Oh, the Mavericks aren't seeing a lot of change in the short-term, even assuming Porzingis returns to game action on March 1.
The Mavericks' playoff chances also jump to 16.8 percent from 9.7 percent. Once again, however, this move will partially be influenced by what Porzingis decides to do in the immediate future. He and Donic could be a dangerous tandem, but if he absconds as soon as possible then this trade could be viewed differently -- particularly if the Knicks' ideal offseason plays out.
Porzingis has career averages of 17.8 points and 7.1 rebounds, while shooting 36 percent from 3-point range. He could be a terrific component for the Mavericks if he's able to fully recover. First, however, he needs to recover. The Mavericks have a bright future one way or another with Doncic. If Porzingis comes back at 100 percent -- even if it's next season -- they could be a team to keep an eye on in the vaunted Western Conference for years to come.