Amid all the Anthony Davis speculation over the past 72 hours, another shockwave was sent through the NBA landscape on Thursday afternoon as multiple reports confirmed the Mavericks will be acquiring Kristaps Porzingis from the Knicks on the heels of the seven-footer voicing his dismay to the New York front office.
Here are the particulars of the deal.
Knicks receive: Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, DeAndre Jordan and two future first-round picks.
Mavs receive: Porzingis, Courtney Lee, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke.
Why did the Knicks do it? It appears they were wary of investing big in a disgruntled Porzingis who is currently rehabbing from a torn ACL. He could have forced their hand and played on a qualifying offer next year and it doesn’t look like the Knicks wanted to spend big on a seven-footer coming back from a serious knee injury that had issues with the organization. They used him first and foremost in this deal to get off bad contracts. Lee ($12 million through next season) and Hardaway Jr. ($18 million through 2020-21) are overpaid for their production and moving them both now clears the books for the Knicks next year. Once this deal is done, they will have roughly $72-76 million in projected salary cap space for 2019-20, which should give them easily enough room to sign two max free agents in the summer. Giving up Porzingis is a steep cost to do that, but they also get the upside of Smith Jr. a future first round pick and whatever assets they can squeeze from Matthews/Jordan ahead of deadline (probably none).
Why did the Mavs do it? This is their chance to take a flier on a star to pair with fellow international phenom Luka Doncic and potentially take the torch from Dirk Nowitzki. They also were positioned to have max cap space this summer but this young rebuilding core wasn’t likely to appeal to top-flight free agents. Instead, of overspending on a couple of second tier guys, the Mavs elected to rent out that cap room in order to bring Porzingis aboard. They move on from Smith Jr as well and have to give up a pick. It’s not a risk-free investment for them either, but they at least get a chance to evaluate Porzingis internally before making a big financial investment to him as reports indicate he is planning to play on a qualifying offer for next season. From a marketing standpoint, this is a big win for them as well with a pair of Euro phenoms.
Should the Celtics have been in on Porzingis? Given the injury concerns and defensive limitations, I lean towards no. The Knicks clearly wanted any team taking him on to clear their books of bad contracts and the Celtics weren’t in the position to do that, contend this year and stay in the running for Davis. Gordon Hayward could have been offered but the Knicks wanted expiring contracts clearly to clear their books. No one else on the Celtics roster with an expiring contract makes close to enough to match the money on those contracts from Hardaway Jr. and Lee. Boston could have offered some young pieces and picks, but that's all ammo they need to keep for any Davis deal.
How does this all impact the Celtics, Kyrie's future and the Anthony Davis chase? There’s no question that the Knicks have positioned themselves to be a serious player here this summer, one way or another. They also gave up one of their best young assets for that ability, a gamble that seems foolish on the surface.