As the Dallas Mavericks (22-18) look to extend a season-high six-game win streak to seven against the New York Knicks (20-21) on Wednesday night, let's look back at the last three years to see which team really won the Kristaps Porzingis trade.
On January 30, 2019, the Mavs had just beaten the Knicks 114-90 in what was Dirk Nowitzki’s final game at Madison Square Garden, and everyone was feeling pretty good.
Nowitzki, in what was one of his better outings of his final season, scored 14 points off the bench in just 12 minutes. Then-rookie Luka Doncic hadn’t yet reached his current level of superpowers, but he was still dazzling to watch. And Dennis Smith Jr., who had controversially been away from the team earlier in the season, put up a 13-point, 10-rebound and 15-assist triple double.
Even Porzingis, who was in street clothes and on the opposing team, was seen smiling and hugging Doncic at halftime, almost as if he knew something big was coming.
Sure enough, the next day, the news broke that the Mavs had made a major roster shakeup by trading Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, DeAndre Jordan and two first round picks to the Knicks in exchange for Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke.
At the time, it looked like the Mavs had fleeced the Knicks, even with Porzingis' risky injury history and Hardaway Jr.'s contract being seen as an albatross. So now, considering that
1) Hardaway Jr. has made a name for himself in Dallas,
2) Porzingis, for the most part, has put up good numbers when healthy, despite still having some injury concerns and not being a 100-percent perfect with Doncic, and
3) none of the players the Mavs sent over to the Knicks are even on the roster anymore, it's still fairly easy to look back and say Dallas 'won the trade.'
But... it's not exactly over yet, either.
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In last year's draft, the Knicks traded the No. 21 pick they acquired from the Mavs to the Clippers for the No. 25 pick, which turned into Quentin Grimes. Grimes has not yet done anything of significant in the league yet, so we'll call that one a wash for now. However, the Mavs still owe the Knicks their 2023 first round pick, so we'll have to see how that one pans out.
Through three seasons with the Mavs, Porzingis has played in 126 games. Through his first three seasons with the Knicks, he played in 186 games. To be fair, the last two seasons were shorter than usual due to COVID derailing everything, but that's still a 60-game gap. (And yes, KP will miss this game, too.) Some of it is due to Dallas being extra cautious, and some of it has been due to actual injuries, but no matter how you want to slice it, Porzingis hasn't yet played enough basketball for the Mavs to justify his five-year, $150 million contract.
Individually, Porzingis has had a season that warrants All-Star consideration, as he's averaged 20.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.7 blocks in 30.4 minutes per game. Big picture, though, and considering the imperfect fit with Doncic, it might be a fair question to ask if the Mavs are truly better with Porzingis.
The Mavs are 11-15 in the 26 games Porzingis has played in this season. They are 9-5 in the 14 games where Porzingis can't suit up. Even if Dallas thinks about shopping Porzingis, the run the team is on without him right now is surely something that opposing teams will take note of.
Although the Mavs got the better end of the deal player-wise, the fact remains that neither team has yet to do anything significant in the playoffs. Dallas has five playoff wins over the last two postseasons, but zero playoff seres wins to show for it. The last playoff series win for the Mavs came in the 2011 NBA Finals when they upset the LeBron James-led Miami Heat, more than a decade ago. The Knicks, despite ending a seven-year playoff drought last season, only have one playoff win.
So, when all the dust settled in each of the last two-and-a-half seasons since the big trade, both teams ultimately ended up in the same place ... on their couches at home.
Although all team accomplishments have meaning to a certain extent, the end goal remains the same for everyone, and that's to win a championship.
Neither Dallas nor New York has done that yet, and both franchises could still be a long way off (although we have to admit, the way the Mavs are playing lately is making us feel better about things again).
If Porzingis, Hardaway Jr. or the Knicks' 2023 first round pick from Dallas are eventually hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy, then we will have a definitive answer to the question, "Who won the trade?" Unless that happens, though, the answer will always be subjective, and both fan bases should probably let it go all together if they haven't already.