Knicks dodge a bullet as Kristaps Porzingis turns into most expensive role player

Two years ago, the New York Knicks were the butt of the joke for trading away a rising star Kristaps Porzingis.

The Dallas Mavericks won the trade via landslide in the eyes of the majority. But after watching Porzingis turned into the most expensive role player in the league during the playoffs, it appears the former Knicks’ regime had the right foresight.

For two years, Porzingis has failed miserably to live up to the expectations that came with the $158 million contract extension he signed with the Mavericks after the trade. His health and diminishing on-court production has raised more concerns than playoff success for the Mavericks.

After averaging just 13.1 points and 5.4 rebounds in another Dallas’ first-round exit this season, Porzingis sounded as disgruntled as he was in New York.

“Good question,” Porzingis told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon on how does he feel about his fit with the franchise moving forward.

“How do I feel? I mean, I’m good. I tried to put in the work, tried to work hard. I do my part, listen to the coaches, what I’m asked to do, and that’s it. I try to keep it simple for myself so I’m not overthinking, and I try to focus on what I can control. That’s being a better basketball player, going into the offseason hungry. I want to get better physically [and] on the basketball court. I’m going to put that work in to get better, and then the rest of the stuff will resolve itself.”

For Porzingis, it’s simple. But for the Mavericks, it’s a complex one.

It’s the same question that the Knicks have correctly answered in the past.

Porzingis may have cost Dallas just a few expendable players and picks that nowhere near the top of the Lottery in that trade, but the big contract they gave Porzingis is now considered around the league as an albatross according to an ESPN report.

Tim Hardaway, Jr., viewed as a throw-in in the Porzingis deal, has played better than Porzingis. But the Mavericks may not afford him after going all-in with Porzingis and with Doncic’s supermax extension looming on the horizon.

While the Knicks missed out on superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, which is why they made the swing in the first place, the consolation prize, which turned out to be Julius Randle and significant cap space, roughly $50 million, this summer wasn’t that bad at all.

Randle’s All-Star and Most Improved Player rise this season fueled the Knicks’ rebuild that reached the playoffs for the first time in eight years. The Knicks were also able to flip Dennis Smith Jr. into half-season of Derrick Rose’s magical renaissance. They have also used that cap space to rent Marcus Morris last season and converted him into Draft steal Immanuel Quickley.

The Knicks could still use the Mavericks picks (21st in this year’s Draft and a top-10 protected first-round pick in 2023) they got from the Porzingis’ deal to acquire a star or another solid core piece via trade.

It’s working out well for the Knicks. Not so much for the Mavericks, who paid a premium for a unicorn that has turned out to be an albatross.

Two years since the trade, the tables have been turned. The Knicks have transformed into a franchise on the rise while Porzingis became the butt of the joke.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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