The NBA’s trade deadline season started with a big one Thursday afternoon when Dallas and New York agreed on a deal that forged a clear path for the Mavericks’ future and gave the Knicks a better shot at one of their own.
Dallas acquired a package of players including star big man Kristaps Porzingis and guard Tim Hardaway Jr., for a package headlined by former lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr. and two future first-rounders — including one that’s unprotected — as well as veterans DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews (and their expiring contracts).
“We didn’t even use a gun and a mask,” one Mavericks employee told The Times.
The Mavericks’ employee isn’t wrong to be excited. Assuming Porzingis fully recovers from the knee injury that likely will sideline him all of this season, the Mavericks have found a second star to pair with rookie sensation Luka Doncic, giving them a pair of offensive unicorns as good as any in the NBA. The 6-foot-7 Doncic is 19, the 7-3 Porzingis is 23.
And Hardaway isn’t merely a throw-in. A high-volume scorer on the Knicks, Hardaway will have to become a more consistent catch-and-shoot three-point option, but he’s productive enough to play minutes on a good team.
The risk might be Porzingis’ health — he’s never played more than 72 games — and the high-cost commitment — he’ll be a restricted free agent his summer — but it could be a win for Dallas.
Conversations with NBA insiders and executives paint a positive picture for the Knicks, too.
Smith is a bit of a gamble — he didn’t excel in Dallas under coach Rick Carlisle — but he has plenty of athleticism and talent. The draft picks, especially if the Western Conference stays as tough as it is today, might turn into lottery selections.
But the real win is the possibilities the deal allows for this summer. The Knicks now have enough cap space to sign two players to maximum contracts.
The Knicks have been considered by a lot of executives the favorite to sign Kevin Durant, and the trade might signal their confidence that he’s on his way.
If Durant lands in New York, a second star could follow, with Kyrie Irving a favorite. Of course, if Boston were to somehow land Anthony Davis, Irving could re-up with the Celtics.
The tentacles of the Porzingis-Smith deal reach all the way to Los Angeles.
For the Lakers, it’s helpful in their pursuit of Davis. A Knicks offer of Porzingis and a first-round pick would’ve been an interesting one for New Orleans.
The Clippers still dream of pairing Durant with Kawhi Leonard, though they understand how unlikely it is.
A more immediate impact could come after the trade deadline, when the center-heavy Knicks could buy out Jordan’s contract, making him a free agent.
A reunion with the Clippers is a definite possibility. The team could use more rebounding, and Jordan could rebuild some of his defensive reputation by helping the Clippers in an area where they struggle.
Jordan would like to return to Los Angeles, and he’s still close with coach Doc Rivers. Some NBA scouts believe a pairing with the Lakers, perhaps next summer, makes sense for Jordan, too.
Former USC big man Nikola Vucevic made his first All-Star game this week, and he remains an interesting rental option for the Lakers if they strike out on Davis. The Orlando Magic, who haven’t been to the postseason since 2012, have faded and are four games out of the No. 8 spot in the East. … Whether he gets dealt at the deadline or not, expect the Clippers to be involved with Vucevic this summer when he hits unrestricted free agency. … The Denver Nuggets deserve a lot of credit for developing their young players, and it appears they might have hit on another one. Third-year guard Malik Beasley, a former first-round pick, exploded for 35 points in a win over the Houston Rockets on Friday. He’s scored in double figures in 18 of his last 22 games, a stretch in which he’s shot 45.5% from deep.