As the Dallas Mavericks (22-18) look to extend their six-game winning streak to seven against the New York Knicks (20-21) on Wednesday night, let’s look back over the past three years to see which team really won the exchange Kristaps Porzingis.
On January 30, 2019, the Mavs had just beaten the Knicks 114-90 in Dirk Nowitzki’s last game at Madison Square Garden, and everyone was feeling pretty good.
Nowitzki, in what was one of his best outings of his last season, scored 14 points off the bench in just 12 minutes. Then rookie Luka Doncic had yet to hit his current level of superpowers, but he was still dazzling to watch. And Dennis Smith Jr., who had been controversially sidelined earlier in the season, registered a triple double of 13 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists.
Even Porzingis, who was in formal attire and on the opposing team, was seen smiling and hugging Doncic at half-time, almost as if he knew something big was about to happen.
Sure enough, the next day news broke that the Mavs had made a major roster reshuffle by trading Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, DeAndre Jordan and two first-round picks at the Knicks in exchange for Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke.
At the time, it looked like the Mavs had robbed the Knicks, even with Porzingis’ risky injury history and Hardaway Jr.’s contract being considered an albatross. So now considering that
1) Hardaway Jr. made a name for himself in Dallas,
2) Porzingis, for the most part, has achieved good numbers when in good health, although he still has injury issues and is not 100% perfect with Doncic, and
3) None of the players the Mavs sent to the Knicks are even on the roster anymore, it’s still easy enough to look back and say Dallas “won the trade”.
But … it’s not quite finished yet either.
In last year’s draft, the Knicks traded the No.21 pick acquired from the Mavs at the Clippers for the No.25 pick, who turned into Quentin Grimes. Grimes hasn’t done anything big in the league yet, so we’re going to call it a washout for now. However, the Mavs still owe the Knicks their first-round pick in 2023, so we’ll have to see how that plays out.
In three seasons with the Mavs, Porzingis played 126 games. In his first three seasons with the Knicks, he played 186 games. To be fair, the past two seasons have been shorter than usual due to the fact that COVID has derailed everything, but it’s still a 60-game gap. (And yes, KP will be missing this game as well.) Part of that is because Dallas is being super cautious, and part of it is because of actual injuries, but no matter how you want to slice it, Porzingis hasn’t done it yet. played enough basketball for the Mavs to justify his five-year, $ 150 million contract.
Individually, Porzingis has had a season worth considering by the All-Stars as he averages 20.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.7 v in 30.4 minutes per game. Overall, however, and given the flawed fit with Doncic, it might be fair to question whether the Mavs are really better with Porzingis.
The Mavs are 11-15 in all 26 games Porzingis has played this season. They are 9-5 in the 14 games Porzingis can’t adapt to. Even if Dallas is thinking about buying Porzingis, the race the team is without him in right now is surely something opposing teams will take note of.
While the Mavs had the best end of the deal in terms of players, the fact remains that neither team has done anything major in the playoffs yet. Dallas has five playoff wins in the last two playoffs, but no playoff wins are to show for it. The Mavs’ last playoff victory came in the 2011 NBA Finals when they toppled the LeBron James-led Miami Heat over a decade ago. The Knicks, despite ending a seven-year playoff drought last season, have only one playoff victory.
So when all the dust settled in each of the last two and a half seasons since big business, the two teams ended up in the same place… on their couches at home.
While all of a team’s accomplishments make sense to some extent, the end goal remains the same for everyone, and that is to win a championship.
Neither Dallas nor New York has done it yet, and both franchises could still be a long way off (although we have to admit that the way the Mavs are playing lately makes us feel better again).
If Porzingis, Hardaway Jr., or the 2023 Dallas Knicks first-round pick ultimately lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy, then we’ll have a definitive answer to the question “Who won the trade?” Unless that happens, however, the answer will always be subjective, and the two fan bases should probably let it go together if they haven’t already.