Breaking Down the Blockbuster Deal Between the Knicks and Mavericks

Last Thursday, January 31, the New York Knicks sent shock waves through the NBA by trading their young franchise centerpiece, Kristaps Porzingis, to the Dallas Mavericks, along with guards Tim Hardaway, Trey Burke and Courtney Lee. In return, the Knicks received the expiring contracts of DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews along with Dennis Smith Jr. (who fell out of favor in Dallas) and two future first round draft picks.

The signs of a divorce between the Knicks and Porzingis had grown for nearly two years. In 2017, Porzingis was upset with the way that then-President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson had treated Carmelo Anthony. At the end of the 2017 season, Porzingis skipped his exit meeting with the Knicks front office.

After Porzingis tore his left ACL in a game against the Milwaukee Bucks on February 6, 2018, the Knicks’ season fell out of control. Without Porzingis this season, the Knicks were committed to a rebuild; currently, they have the worst record in the NBA at 10-42, and have lost 13 consecutive games. When Porzingis, still recovering from his injury, informed the Knicks that he was unhappy of their current direction as a franchise, the Knicks moved on from him and sent him to Dallas.

While one could argue that it would be easy to convince a free agent to join the Knicks with Porzingis because of his talent, I would disagree with that argument due to Porzingis’ noncommittal attitude about his future with New York.

By firing Phil Jackson and hiring Steve Mills and Scott Perry to the front office, along with hiring Dave Fizdale as Head Coach in 2018, the Knicks wanted to change the current losing culture in New York. To attract talented free agents, it is important that their franchise star firmly bought into this culture change. For whatever reason, the Knicks simply felt as though Porzingis was incapable of (or unwilling to) buying into that mentality.

By moving on from Porzingis, the Knicks are ready to turn a corner without their disgruntled star and, instead, with an abundance of draft assets, young talent and salary cap flexibility. They own all of their future first-round draft picks, including this year’s pick, which could potentially be the first overall, and in the trade they gained an unprotected first-round pick from Dallas in 2021 along with a top-ten protected first round pick in 2023. They also have young talent on the roster including Smith, as well as rookies Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier. By moving on from the bloated contracts of Hardaway and Lee, the Knicks will have salary cap room to sign two maximum-deal free agents this summer.

While this trade is risky for the Knicks since they are giving up on Porzingis, they are showing they have a plan that fans can understand. Even if the fans’ dream of a big three led by Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Zion Williamson does not come to fruition, the Knicks are showing patience by sticking to their plan and trying to implement a new winning culture.

Contact Mattthew Frankle at [email protected].