How the Kristaps Porzingis trade altered the New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks' futures

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DALLAS — The trade stunned the NBA.

Kristaps Porzingis was the New York Knicks’ young star, one of the best at his position in the NBA. He was, at the time, part of the Knicks’ pathway toward future success, the player who provided hope for an organization that desperately wanted to become a winner. 

Then the Knicks sent Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks, along with Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke. 

In return, they acquired Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews and financial flexibility in the form of open cap space and two future first-round picks. 

The Jan. 30 deal drastically altered the futures of the two organizations. 

At the time, no one knew for sure what the trade would lead to.

Porzingis was rehabbing from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, an injury that left no guarantee he would be the same player upon returning.

The trade also created enough salary cap space for the Knicks to offer two max contracts at a time when they were preparing to chase stars in free agency, most notably Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. 

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But only time would tell how the Knicks used their new-found financial flexibility.

The Knicks on Friday will see Porzingis for the first time since that trade when they play the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center.

After the Mavericks’ practice on Thursday, Porzingis said he had nothing bad to say about the Knicks or his time in the New York. 

“It’s in the past,” Porzingis said. “I’m grateful for those years that I spent in New York. It’s a great experience.”

Why the trade was made

The Knicks had said through the early part of last season that they were enjoying a strong relationship with Porzingis. They decided not to offer him an extension he was eligible for in October of last year. By delaying it until after last season, they could open up more salary cap room. 

But in the following months, the relationship broke down and Porzingis eventually wanted out. 

The Knicks had been talking to teams around the league about potential trades in case that happened, ultimately pulling the trigger on the deal with the Mavericks. 

Dallas could offer them a young player in Smith who was on his rookie contract, future draft picks and the ability to take on large contracts to give the Knicks financial flexibility.

Fizdale said Thursday he said a nice text exchange with Porzingis after the trade, but never really found out why the relationship had broken down to that extent. Instead he was focused on coaching.

“I’m just happy he’s healthy and playing again,” Fizdale said.

The results

Porzingis has been playing well with the Mavericks, forming a powerful 1-2 punch with guard Luka Doncic. Porzingis entered Friday averaging 19 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.3 blocks per game while shooting 41.2 percent from the field. 

He still feels he isn’t playing up to his potential. At least not yet.

“I just want to get going, get back into my groove, no matter who it is against,” Porzingis said. “It just happens to be against my old team.”

Still, the addition of Porzingis has helped turn 5-2 Dallas into a contender in the Western Conference, a position they’re likely to sustain.

Potentially for seasons to come: Porzingis signed a five-year contract with Dallas for $158 million in June. 

The Knicks, meanwhile, have gotten off to a rough start. They’ll enter their battle against Porzingis at 1-7. 

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Smith has been inconsistent on the court.

The Knicks used their financial flexibility by signing seven players: Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, Wayne Ellington, Taj Gibson, Reggie Bullock, Bobby Portis and Elfrid Payton. 

Only Randle has at least two years guaranteed. The rest are one-year deals with team options for the second year, which maintains the Knicks’ flexibility.

Again, time will tell what they can do with it. 

In the meantime, they’ve spent the early part of the season trying to develop chemistry and an identity with a bevy of new players, which hasn’t been an easy task.

What exactly the trade leads to remains to be seen. 

“We don’t know what Dennis Smith is going to be,” Fizdale said. “He’s 21 years old. At the end of the day we’ve still got two first-round picks out of that. Who knows who that’s going to be? We won’t know exactly what comes out of that for a year or two.”

Chris Iseman is the Knicks beat writer for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to all Knicks analysis, news, trades and more, please subscribe today and download our app

Email: iseman@northjersey.com Twitter: @chrisiseman