The departure of Kristaps Porzingis from New York was even more unexpected than his arrival on draft night. In his rookie season, Porzingis quickly turned Knicks fan’s boos on draft night into cheers. The young Latvian superstar brought energy to Madison Square Garden, and was the main piece for the Knicks to build around moving forward. Just a year after being named to his first all star game and subsequently tearing his ACL, the Knicks traded Porzingis away to the Dallas Mavericks. While the trade seemed like a poor decision in the beginning, looking back at it now, things kind of worked out well for the New York Knicks.
Can Kristaps Porzingis Stay Healthy?
First of all, Kristaps Porzingis is not what he used to be. Although he is shooting more efficiently now than ever, Porzingis has struggled on the defensive end. This season, he has posted a career low in steals and blocks. Moreover, Porzingis is being less aggressive on offense, attempting a career low in free throws per game as well. A lot of these sudden regressions could be attributed to his injury history. Since tearing his ACL, Porzingis has had more bad luck in Dallas. Knee surgery kept him out of the playoffs last season and for the early stages of this season. Porzingis also suffers minor lower-body injuries quite frequently, and is forced to sit out a lot of games. In fact, Porzingis has already missed 19 games this season. Kristaps Porzingis, although talented, would’ve been a risky long-term investment for the Knicks given his injury luck.
The Return Package
The Knicks received Dennis Smith Jr. along with Wesley Matthews, DeAndre Jordan, and two first round draft picks. Jordan and Matthews rarely played for New York, but the move created significant cap space for the loaded free agency class of 2019. The Knicks struck out in free agency, and ultimately used the cap space on Julius Randle and Marcus Morris. The first year after the blockbuster Porzingis trade was rough for the Knicks. Rookie RJ Barrett was struggling, Smith Jr. lost confidence in his game, Randle was playing horribly, and the Knicks were forced to fire coach David Fizdale midway through the season. The trade seemed like a disaster, but here we are a year later, and the Knicks are fighting for a playoff spot.
Dennis Smith Jr. as we know struggled in New York, but the Knicks were able to trade him for one of the best veteran leaders in the NBA, in Derrick Rose. Marcus Morris was traded for a draft pick which turned out to be rookie sensation Immanuel Quickley. Most importantly, Julius Randle has blossomed into an NBA all-star. If the Knicks held onto Porzingis, it’s likely that there would not have been enough cap space to sign Randle. Even so, the Knicks would’ve lacked interest in a player who also played power forward. While Porzingis has a much higher ceiling than Randle, injuries may hold him back. Randle is relatively durable, a better playmaker, and helps lead the league’s best scoring defense. Julius Randle has replaced Kristaps Porzingis as the main star in New York, while the rest of the trade is also working out well for the Knicks.
Future Financial Flexibility
The Knicks originally made the trade to create cap space in 2019. While this originally backfired, the Knicks are now set up well financially for the future. Julius Randle and RJ Barrett are much cheaper options than Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. Barrett and Immanuel Quickley are still on their rookie contracts, while almost all of the veteran players on the Knicks are on expiring contracts with team options. Because the culture under Tom Thibodeau is more appealing to free agents, the Knicks will have cap room to sign interested free agents. If the Knicks strike out on stars again in free agency, they could simply save this money for a contract extension for Mitchell Robinson. With the roster on expiring and rookie contracts, the Knicks have plenty of money to throw at marquee free agents.
Did The Knicks Win The Porzingis Trade?
The New York Knicks certainly did not win the Kristaps Porzingis trade, but they didn’t lose it by that much. The future of the team still looks very bright without Porzingis. RJ Barrett is showing flashes of star potential, while Immanuel Quickley will likely be named to an all-rookie team. Porzingis’ injury history along with his massive contract were too much of a burden for the Knicks. Besides, Kristaps Porzingis made it clear that he no longer wanted to be a Knick. Today’s Knicks are more cohesive than ever. The team is happy, works hard, and seems to really enjoy playing winning basketball together. Dallas still owes the Knicks two first round picks, which could turn into even more solid young talent. Kristaps Porzingis will certainly have an amazing career in Dallas, but Knicks fans should be pleased with Julius Randle and the rest of the crew.