When the Dallas Mavericks traded for Kristaps Porzingis in February of 2019, then signed him to a five-year, $158 million max extension four months later, they did so with the belief that he and Luka Doncic would serve as the dual-star engine of future championship runs.
That hasn't come close to happening. The Mavericks have lost in the first round the last two postseasons, both times to the Clippers, and while Doncic has done his part in ascending to the ranks of the most elite players in the world, Porzingis, when he's even been able to stay healthy, has fallen short of expectations.
Porzingis' regular-season numbers look OK on paper: 20 points and nine boards per game on 47-percent shooting, including 37 percent from 3. But he missed over 40 percent of Dallas' games, and he was up and down in the ones in which he played. He'll have nights where he looks like a legit star (he was great in two of the three playoff games he played in the bubble before a torn meniscus ended his season) who provides elite spacing with his shooting, and others where you forget he's even out there.
Porzingis was particularly invisible for large stretches during this year's playoffs. Over seven games vs. the Clippers, Porzingis averaged just 13 points and five rebounds, failing to score in double digits in Games 3, 5 and 6. He shot 29 percent from 3 -- 0 for 5 in Game 7. As Doncic -- who often appears reticent to involve Porzingis -- has come to control every aspect of Dallas' offense, Porzingis has grown unhappy with his diminished role, per ESPN's Tim MacMahon.
Then there are questions about the chemistry between Doncic and Porzingis. The Mavs' franchise cornerstones admittedly aren't friends, a distant dynamic that team owner Mark Cuban has compared to the early stages of the partnership between Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, which ultimately produced two NBA Finals appearances and a championship.
But Porzingis has been frustrated, often feeling more like an afterthought than a co-star as Doncic dominates the ball and the spotlight, sources told ESPN. Porzingis frequently made thinly veiled references during his postgame media availabilities, such as saying the "ball actually moved tonight" after high-scoring performances or stating that the offense didn't involve him on low-scoring nights.
As faith has been lost that Porzingis can be the co-star Doncic and the Mavericks need to compete for championships, talk has naturally shifted to his trade value -- which, according to The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor, is "minimal."
From O'Connor in his latest episode of The Void (which is always fantastic, by the way):
"The trouble here is that the Dallas Mavericks are facing a challenge to make massive changes to the roster," O'Connor said. "Porzingis has two seasons left plus a player option for a third year left on his contract, and teams don't want him if they try to trade him. Mark Cuban denied previous reports that the Mavericks shopped Porzingis but at the least league sources have told me interest in Porzingis is 'minimal.' ... Teams are scared off by the money, the health and possibly his diminishing production."
Porzingis is set to make $31.7 million and $33.8M over the next two seasons and he has a $36M player option for 2023-24. Typically when teams try to move off outsized contracts, they have to attach draft picks and/or young players to a deal to entice the team taking on the bad money. But Dallas doesn't have much in the way of either. Also from O'Connor:
"And because of the picks owed to the [New York] Knicks, Dallas can't deal another first-round pick until at least 2025. Not only that, aside from Jalen Brunson, Dallas' young players haven't shown much. So the team has limited trading power in terms of its draft picks and players and they also have some tough decisions to make this coming offseason as well with a number of different upcoming free agents."
What we know pretty much for sure is that Doncic is going to be in Dallas for a long time. He's eligible for a $200 million-plus max rookie extension this summer, and when asked on Monday if he intends to sign it, Doncic said: "I think you know the answer."
What it less clear is whether Doncic will be playing alongside Porzingis by the time that contract begins in 2022-23, or even if Porzingis will be in Dallas next season. The Mavericks would surely trade him if there's a taker with a decent offer, but in the absence of that, KP and Luka may just have to salvage whatever is left of their partnership.