The Knicks have traded away their Unicorn and hope it will turn into Kevin Durant AND Kyrie Irving.
And ‘Hope’ is the key word. Because failure would be nothing short of an epic Knicks disaster.
Kristaps Porzingis is on his way to the Mavericks to form a potential super European tandem with Luka Doncic, while the Knicks set themselves up to hold enough cap space to sign two max players this summer. In the blockbuster shocker that was finalized Thursday, the Knicks used Porzingis to shed the salaries of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee while taking back largely expiring contracts from the Mavericks.
The megadeal looks like this:
Porzingis, Lee, Trey Burke and Hardaway to the Mavericks; DeAndre Jordan ($22.9 million expiring contract), Wesley Matthews ($18.6 million expiring) and Dennis Smith Jr. to the Knicks. The Knicks will also receive a pair of future first round picks.
The deal gives the Knicks roughly $75 million in cap space to offer this summer, good enough to sign two max free agents. Durant, Irving, Kawhi Leonard and Kemba Walker are at the top of the class, and the Knicks are throwing all their chips into trying to make this work.
After a year of preaching patience and “doing things the right way,” Steve Mills and Scott Perry are taking the ultimate gamble with their franchise. If they strike out, they lost Porzingis for nothing. Coincidentally, Irving will be at the Garden on Friday with the Celtics. Nothing about this shouts “building toward sustained success,” as Mills and Perry have been hammering home about their direction.
In the meantime, the Knicks are the worst team in the NBA and still own their first-round pick – which has a 14 percent chance of turning into Zion Williamson. Matthews and Jordan are rentals who are buyout candidates after the deadline.
Smith Jr., coincidentally, is the point guard whom the Knicks passed over in 2017 to draft Frank Ntilikina. His arrival casts Ntilikina’s future further in doubt. The Frenchman is being shopped by the Knicks, as the Daily News reported.
Just hours before he was traded, Porzingis and his agent – who is also his brother — met with the Knicks on Thursday to discuss his future and his doubts about the team’s direction. And when reports started leaking that the Knicks were finalizing the deal with the Mavericks, it left the impression that Porzingis’ sudden discontent forced New York’s hand.
A look back at Kristaps Porzingis’ basketball career
In reality, this had been bubbling for quite some time. Sources said neither side – the Knicks nor Porzingis – was sold on one another moving forward.
In that respect, it’s important to remember that Porzingis was Phil Jackson’s draft pick, not that of the current regime. Sources said Porzingis likes coach David Fizdale but, after playing for four different coaches in four years and in the midst of a historically bad season from the Knicks, he’s skeptical about where this is headed.
In other words, as the News reported last month, Porzingis re-signing with the Knicks this summer was hardly a foregone conclusion.