Porzingis joins Doncic via seven-player trade between Knicks and Mavericks
Li Xiang

NBA's New York Knicks sent their "unicorn" Kristaps Porzingis together with Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke and Courtney Lee to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews and two future draft first-round picks, on Thursday.

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the two future first-round picks from Dallas were a 2021 unprotected one and a 2023 protected (1-10) pick.

Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks blocks a shot by E'Twaun Moore of the New Orleans Pelicans in the game. /VCG Photo

Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks blocks a shot by E'Twaun Moore of the New Orleans Pelicans in the game. /VCG Photo

It shouldn't be a surprise that New York gave up Hardaway Jr., Burke or Lee since they were never part of the team's plans. The real shocker, however, was that the Knicks put Porzingis, the 2.21-meter-tall center who had been expected by almost everyone to become the team's franchise player.

Since he was selected by the Big Apple with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Porzingis impressed the league with an athleticism and amazingly soft touch uncommon for his size. In the 2017-18 season, he dropped an average of 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 2.4 blocks per game.

Porzingis leaves the court with the help of the working staff after tearing his left ACL in the game. /VCG Photo

Porzingis leaves the court with the help of the working staff after tearing his left ACL in the game. /VCG Photo

However, Prozingis tore his ACL in February 2018 and missed the rest of the season. In January, doctors checked his knee and confirmed that he's recovering well. Porzingis could choose to become a restricted free agent this summer and he has not made a decision over his future with the Mavericks yet.

The Knicks could, but did not offer Porzingis a 158-million-U.S.-dollar rookie extension partly because they wanted to remain flexible with their payrolls. Meanwhile, according to ESPN, the 23-year-old young man met with management on Thursday and expressed his concern over the fact that the team kept losing – the Knicks have already lost 40 of their 50 games this season. 

Kyrie Irving (L) of the Boston Celtics and Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors in the game. /VCG Photo

Kyrie Irving (L) of the Boston Celtics and Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors in the game. /VCG Photo

ESPN's Bobby Marks pointed out that, after the trade, the Knicks will be able to have at most 74.7 million dollars for cap space in the offseason, which is enough for the team to offer two maximum contracts to superstars including Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Kemba Walker. Moreover, if New York could earn a high-ranking draft pick for 2019 in addition to their No.1 market in the league, the team will be a very competitive recruiter.

Compared with the Knicks who are focused on the future, the Mavericks made a possibly outstanding update to their franchise – if Porzingis comes back healthy. The impressive performance of Luka Doncic this season already convinced everyone that he is the future of the team. When he has a big man who can make the paint a "no-fly zone," shoot three-pointers and launch attacks by himself, Dallas will have the whole league intimidated by their offense.

Dennis Smith Jr. of the Dallas Mavericks handles the ball in the game. /VCG Photo

Dennis Smith Jr. of the Dallas Mavericks handles the ball in the game. /VCG Photo

The case of Dennis Smith Jr. is a little more complicated. Selected by the Mavericks with the overall ninth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Smith was once seen as a potential cornerstone of the team with his explosive athleticism. However, he's been eclipsed by Doncic's performance this season. Though Dallas had said that they would not send Smith away easily, they could not say no to an offer that included Porzingis.

The good news for Smith was that he should be able to play freely in New York, or at least for this season since the team were already aiming for better draft picks instead of better results. If he proves himself a fit for the team, Smith will still have the chance to be a key member of the Knicks. If he continues to struggle, it will not hurt New York to get rid of a rookie contract.