The Knicks Trading Porzingis Left the League Shocked; Where Does the Team Go From Here?
The Knicks did the unthinkable Thursday afternoon when they decided to trade franchise cornerstone Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks. It was a move that happened so quickly, it sent shock waves across the Association. For Knicks fans, it was a ‘Where were you and what were you doing when you heard the news?’ moment they’ll never forget.
Porzingis offered hope to a brighter future: a 7’3 unicorn capable of transcending the sport and carrying the Knicks franchise out of this near two-decades-long slump. He was hands down the best Knicks draft pick since Patrick Ewing, and shed light on a mind-blowing statistic: he has now become the 18th consecutive draft pick to not sign an extension with the Knicks following his rookie contract. The last? 1993 Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward.
How could this be? This wasn’t a bust like Mike Sweetney or Mardy Collins. Or a good player being swapped for better like Danilo Gallinari or Jordan Hill. This was The Savior.
Now that the dream of Porzingis spending his career in a Knicks uniform has gone up in flames, Knicks fans are wondering “What now?” It's a question worth asking.
In return for Porzingis, the Knicks acquired Dennis Smith Jr, Wes Matthews, DeAndre Jordan, a 2021 unprotected first round pick, and a 2023 protected (1-10) first round pick.
In addition to Porzingis, the Knicks sent Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee to Dallas as well.
As the dust settles, what’s clear is that deal was less about the players than about the money they’re owed. Both Matthews’ and Jordan’s contracts expire at the end of the season, while both Hardaway Jr.’s and Lee’s continue through the ‘20-’21 season. In each of the next two seasons, the Knicks saved $31 million dollars, and $62 million total. When they conclude the season, the Knicks are primed with $74.6 million in cap space for this summer, seven first round picks over the next five years, and a young core of Kevin Knox, Alonzo Trier, Mitchell Robinson, Dennis Smith Jr, Daymean Dotston, and Frank Ntilikina to build around.
The Knicks are dreaming big. Dreaming of the ping pong balls bouncing the right away and winning the Zion Williamson sweepstakes. Dreaming that with the abundant cap space they can persuade Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to come to Broadway. Or Kemba Walker and DeMarcus Cousins. Or Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler. Dreaming of being a contender next year.
After an offseason of Scott Perry and the Knicks’ front office preaching patience and claiming they wouldn’t trade assets to dump contracts, the Knicks did what the Knicks typically do and completely deviated from their plan.
Unless this was the plan from the beginning. Maybe the front office didn’t think Porzingis would return strong from the ACL injury. This Knicks front office didn’t draft Porzingis and certainly did not cause the problems that led to Porzingis frustration with the team the previous four years, but it’s possible they couldn’t get past Porzingis’ injury history, diva personality, and sense of entitlement. The best ability is availability and Porzingis simply wasn’t there enough. Couple that with Porzingis’ team threatening that we would play on a qualifying offer and go to unrestricted free agency, and the Knicks had just had enough.
As one of the Association’s marquee franchises, though, what the Knicks do never just impacts themselves. This move creates a lot of uncertainty: theoretically, the Knicks are the most dangerous team this summer. They can cause a league-wide disruption if they become serious players for Durant and Irving. They also have the assets and trade capital to make a move for Anthony Davis if he’s still a member of the Pelicans come the offseason.
If you’re a Knicks hater, there’s a lot to sustain you. There’s an 86% chance they don’t land the number one overall pick and it’s not a certainty a free agent will come play here. By trading Porzingis, they removed the safety net. There’s just as good a chance that they’ll end up with the third pick, no marquee free agents interested in coming, and a roster of overpaid middling players instead of a core of superstars.
The Knicks have pushed all their chips into the 2019 offseason. In a few short months we’ll see whether the organization is heading for glory or once again headed for prolonged misery. Will anyone take on the challenge of bringing pride back to the World’s Most Famous Arena? It’s a challenge worth taking.