Although it has been more than a year since he has last seen action in an NBA game, Kristaps Porzingis’ time with the New York Knicks is effectively over, following a trade earlier this year that sent him to the Dallas Mavericks. At the time of the trade, publications such as USA Today speculated that the Knicks traded away their onetime top scorer to free up salary cap space that could be used to sign a top-tier free agent like erstwhile Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant. However, there might have been more to the trade than simply clearing cap space, as suggested on Friday by ESPN’s Zach Lowe.
On the latest episode of The Lowe Post, Lowe hinted that the prospect of Durant’s arrival in New York in the summer of 2019 might have turned Porzingis off on the idea of continuing his NBA career with the Knicks. As noted by Bleacher Report, this was in line with a statement issued by Knicks president Steve Mills, where he said that the Latvian power forward “hadn’t fully bought in to the team’s plans for the future.”
“I don’t think he was psyched about playing with Durant. I don’t know how directly that was verbalized to the Knicks, but I’m confident that it wasn’t something that was his Plan A, he wanted to be the face of the franchise,” Bleacher Report quoted Lowe as saying.
As the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Kristaps Porzingis had a productive run with the New York Knicks, averaging 17.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, and two blocks in 186 games across three seasons. Unfortunately, the 7-foot-3-inch big man’s third season was cut short in February 2018, when he went down with a torn ACL. He was then traded along with Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke, and Courtney Lee to the Mavericks on January 31 in a deal that sent several players, including Dennis Smith Jr., to New York, though he won’t be suiting up for Dallas at any point in the 2018-19 NBA season as he continues to recover from his injury.
At the moment, the Knicks are mired at last place in the Eastern Conference with an 11-47 record but are considered among the favorites to sign Kevin Durant in the 2019 offseason. Durant, however, is far from being the only high-profile player expected to enter free agency this summer, as the likes of Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and Durant’s Warriors teammate DeMarcus Cousins could also take their talents to new teams once the 2018-19 season is over.
According to Bleacher Report, Porzingis would have helped form a “strong foundation” for the Knicks alongside any one of the aforementioned players. But now that he’s with the Mavericks, the Knicks have a much better chance of signing not just one, but two superstar free agents, while also being highly likely to end up with one of the top three picks in the 2019 NBA Draft.