After the stunning acquisition of Kristaps Porzingis in 2019, the Dallas Mavericks envisioned a perfect scenario where he and Luka Doncic would form the ultimate 1-2 punch for a championship contender. But reality has been cruel for the Mavericks, as they have yet to advance past the first round of the playoffs since their NBA Finals victory in 2011.
Along with the reports of front-office strife and a hostile environment stemming from former coach Rick Carlisle, Porzingis has yet to look like the player he was with the New York Knicks. In 22 games this season, the 7-foot-3 Latvian is averaging 19.4 points on 43.8% shooting to go with 7.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. The numbers are solid, but not what Dallas was counting on after signing him to a five-year, $158 million deal in the summer of 2019.
The Mavericks are admittedly in a tricky spot. At 15-16, they don’t appear to be on the cusp of competing with elite Western Conference teams like the Golden State Warriors or Phoenix Suns. Yet with the superstar Doncic firmly in his prime, Dallas has no choice but to surround the All-Star guard with a team capable of advancing deep into the playoffs. The quickest way to do that might be trading Porzingis for a collection of solid players who can help win now, while also freeing up serious cap space to improve down the road.
Between now and the February 10 trade deadline, the Mavs should look for trades like these if they opt to move the Unicorn.
3. Mavericks trade Porzingis to Warriors for Wiggins, Wiseman
Ideally, the Mavericks don’t want to send a player of Porzingis’ caliber to a Western Conference contender. But the 26-6 Warriors can send Dallas two players capable of helping now and in the future.
Andrew Wiggins and James Wiseman are a pair of players Dallas could fetch in return. Wiggins, the 2014 first-overall pick, has gone from a one-dimensional player with maturity issues to a legitimate 3 and D player averaging 18.7 points. He’s not playing on a bargain deal by any means, as he’s on the second-to-last year of a five-year, $147 million contract. But he would give the Mavericks some outside shooting and defense from the wing they’re sorely lacking.
As for Wiseman, the 2020 second-overall pick has yet to play this season as he recovers from a torn meniscus. The 20-year-old presents much more of a risk given his inexperience and injury history. But his upside would be wildly intriguing from Dallas’ standpoint.
A deal for Wiggins and Wiseman wouldn’t just see Porzingis going to the Bay Area. In all likelihood, it would require Dallas also parting with a couple of role players like Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock. The trade would help the Mavs financially thanks to Wiggins having one less year than Porzingis, but not by leaps and bounds. Ultimately, the success of the trade would hinge on Wiseman. Anything less than him becoming an All-Star caliber big man would set Dallas back in their title quest.
2. Porzingis goes to Sacramento for Hield, Bagley
The Sacramento Kings are a franchise still trying to figure things out. But at 13-20, the core they’ve spent years putting together is not achieving the results they expected. Perhaps Porzingis is the answer, as he could join talented guards De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton to finally help right the ship.
Although they’re a perennially disappointing bunch, the Kings have a couple of intriguing players to part with in the form of Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley III. Starting with Hield, the 29-year-old is a well-regarded 3-point shooter, hitting 40.2% of his threes over the course of a six-year career. Like Wiggins, he’d be a high-scoring wing capable of helping now, as he’s in the second year of a frontloaded four-year, $94 million extension.
Bagley, on the other hand, is a complete wild card. The former Duke standout was taken second overall in 2018, one spot ahead of Doncic. But this season, the 22-year-old has more or less been excommunicated from Sacramento’s rotation. Still, the 6-foot-11 Bagley has shown flashes of productivity when he is on the court, securing double-doubles in three of the six games he’s gotten 19 minutes or more in.
According to the Sacramento Bee, the Kings are scouring the market for a good player in exchange for Hield and Bagley, so Porzingis would certainly intrigue them. The question, however … is it enough for Dallas? In other words, do the Mavericks become better both now and in the future with Hield and Bagley? It’s hard to say, especially with Bagley potentially becoming a restricted free agent at season’s end. Nevertheless, he’s a player very much in need of a change of scenery, so a move to Dallas could help him realize his potential.
1. The Mavericks and Celtics link up for a trade
Admittedly, this deal will probably help Dallas the least in the short term. But in the long run, the Mavericks can benefit from the Boston Celtics’ combination of young players and salary cap relief for 2022 and beyond.
With the Celtics, Porzingis would space the floor and give Boston some outside shooting from either the 4 or 5 spot. Like Dallas, Boston has a pair of young players in their primes with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Adding KP to the mix could be what the 16-16 Celtics need to improve what’s been a mediocre campaign.
In a hypothetical deal, Dallas would move Porzingis for Grant Williams, Aaron Nesmith, Al Horford, and Boston’s 2022 first-round pick. The 23-year-old Williams and 22-year-old Nesmith are two young players with upside. Williams in particular would be someone capable of strong numbers if given more opportunities, as the 6-foot-6 forward is averaging 7.5 points on a career-best 51.1% from the field and 45.3% from three. The two youngsters will also cost a combined $8.1 million next season.
At 35, Horford’s inclusion is simply to make the finances work in any Porzingis deal. He’s still under contract for one more season, but only $14.5 of his $26.5 million is guaranteed. That allows Dallas a good deal of flexibility to explore a loaded free-agent class in 2022.
With the potential return of young players, financial flexibility, and an additional draft pick to use however they please, the Mavericks would be wise to talk Porzingis with the C’s.