Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The Knicks are in Dallas to play Kristaps Porzingis and the Mavs on Friday for the first time since the trade. So there will be plenty written and said about the deal over the next couple of days.
Below, let's try to separate fact from opinion:
It's too early to judge winners and losers on this deal
Yes, the Knicks are off to an ugly 1-7 start. And the players they signed with the cap space obtained in the Porzingis trade haven't exactly set the world on fire. So, as of today, you can say definitively that the Knicks didn't get enough back in the Porzingis deal.
But New York only signed one player this summer to a contract that's guaranteed beyond this season (Julius Randle). So the club can have at least $50 million in cap space this summer -- and even more in the following summer. The Knicks also have two future first-round picks from the Mavs. So it's possible to turn those assets into a star via free agency or a trade.
Given that, the final return on the trade for New York won't be known until we see how the cap space/assets are ultimately used.
From a Dallas perspective, we don't yet know how Porzingis will rebound from ACL surgery. Through seven games, he's averaging 19 points on 41 percent shooting (36 percent from beyond the arc), and grabbing eight rebounds per game. If he and Luka Doncic can turn Dallas into a playoff contender, the picks that the Knicks receive will be mid to late first-rounders. In that scenario, unless the Knicks can turn their cap space into a star and/or their current players vastly improve, the trade will be a lopsided loss for the Knicks.
No matter how things play out, the transaction will significantly impact New York moving forward one way or another (more on that below).
Didn't Porzingis ask for a trade?
He did. The relationship between the All-Star big man and the franchise wasn't on great footing going back to his second season, when Porzingis skipped an exit meeting due to frustration over the drama and dysfunction in New York. We were told publicly that everyone was on the same page last season, but that clearly wasn't the case. According to some around the team, Porzingis remained fully committed to staying in New York in the weeks prior to the trade. It's unclear what, specifically, changed in January that led him to alter his thinking.
There's been an assumption that ex-team president Phil Jackson was the root of Porzingis' issues with the club. That's incorrect. Some people around the Knicks during Porzingis' tenure in New York said his issues stemmed from a lack of faith that the Knicks could create a winning environment, one where he could thrive individually and on the team level.
After the 2017 trade talks, Jackson was fired and Steve Mills, the GM under Jackson, took over as team president. Under Mills and new GM Scott Perry, the Knicks sent head coach David Fizdale to Latvia in the 2018 summer in an effort to establish a rapport with the star big man. Ultimately, it didn't work.
Only Porzingis knows how much Mills was at the root of his issues with the organization -- and he's probably not going to discuss it publicly. But it's fair to assume that if Porzingis had faith in Mills and those around him, he'd still be in New York. After all, Porzingis loved the city and the idea of winning in the Big Apple.
Did the Knicks have to trade him?
No. Porzingis was going to be a restricted free agent in the 2019, so New York could have matched any offer Porzingis received from another suitor. But the Knicks feared that Porzingis would sign the qualifying offer, and they'd lose him for nothing.
So they moved quickly to deal him, finalizing the trade with Dallas several days ahead of the 2019 trade deadline. Could the Knicks have gotten a better return for Porzingis? That's hard to prove. If they hadn't included Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee as salary dumps in the deal, it seems logical to think the Knicks could have gotten more back in the deal -- even given Porzingis' ACL injury.
New York said at the time that it had done its homework on which teams could satisfy what it sought in return for a Porzingis deal. Dallas checked all of the boxes -- cap space, first round picks, and a young player. That's why they pulled the trigger on the deal shortly after their five-minute meeting with Porzingis and his agent and brother, Janis Porzingis.
But several opposing teams were surprised at how quickly Porzingis was traded. They wanted the opportunity to make an offer to New York. Maybe one of those teams would have made an offer that was better than Dennis Smith Jr., Wes Matthews, DeAndre Jordan, two first-round picks and cap space?
Why does this whole thing matter, anyway? Isn't it old news?
Yes, Porzingis is gone and the Knicks are moving forward. But the trade is going to impact this franchise one way or another.
If things ultimately work out for the Knicks and they turn into a contender, Mills and Perry will be lauded for handling a difficult situation well and rebuilding the franchise. If they don't work out, the trade will be a major failure for the current regime.
It's important to note that the Knicks obviously felt like they had a shot at the top free agents on the market when they made the Porzingis trade. Clearly, it didn't work out that way. If New York doesn't ultimately land a star via a trade or free agency with the cap space obtained in the deal, that will reflect poorly on management. And it's certainly not a huge leap to see how it could cost someone their job.
Top decision-makers in the organization expected this year's team to be competitive after the Knicks spent $70 million in free agency. Three of their seven losses thus far have been by more than 20 points. If the blowouts continue and the Knicks end up playing for lottery position again, it's fair to assume there will be repercussions.