Kristaps Porzingis was drafted No. 4 overall by the New York Knicks in the 2015 NBA draft. The crowd filled Madison Square Garden with boos when his selection was announced, believing they had drafted the next Jan Vesely.
I know most Knicks fans were just hoping Jahlil Okafor, coming off an NCAA championship, would fall on them, but Phil Jackson selected the Latvia forward/center.
During his three seasons in New York, Porzingis averaged 17.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2 blocks per game, which is a pretty respectable stat for the first three years of an NBA career. As a rookie, he went wild soaking on everyone he could think of.
He was called “the Unicorn”, the “Next Dirk Nowitzki”, and was adored by the New York media. Then he tore his ACL in February 2018 and things got a little tense between Porzingis and the Knicks front office.
Porzingis confirmed that he requested a trade in New York, but it was very strange that Steve Mills honored his request. Porzingis was heading to free agency as a restricted free agent, meaning the Knicks could have matched any offer or had he dared to accept the qualifying offer. There was no way Porzingis would have Actually gone abroad.
How many times have we seen a star player request a trade just to force the front office to make moves to improve the roster? What the New York front office got for Porzingis was pennies on the dollar in a failed effort to lure Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving with the cap savings.
I don’t blame Knicks fans for hating Porzingis, but ultimately he wanted out of a poorly run franchise. But I find it hard to let the front office get away with having so little for someone who was considered a future league star at the time.
But things must be different now under Leon Rose. The New York front office needs to look at the players objectively and see their value. Porzingis remains a very good rim protector that can provide scoring and outside shooting.
Is there a deal with Kristaps Porzingis that could be done for the Knicks-Wizards?
Here are three players the Knicks may not want on their roster next year:
- Julius Randle. He didn’t have the season he had in 2020-21. Randle regressed in virtually every category and often showed signs of immaturity. He doesn’t seem to fit a role that will require him to be a team’s best player. New York also needs to open up playing time for Obi Toppin so he can thrive. When the minutes were given to the second-year player, he was a major asset to the team and performed very well with the starting minutes. Because Randle is on a great long-term deal, it looks like if the deal is good, the Knicks should be looking to trade him.
- The Alec Burk the playmaker’s experience must end. Tom Thibodeau has to let go of his dreams of forcing Burks to be a point guard when he has other usable guards ready to take those minutes. Burks is still a good enough scorer on a decent contract to retain trade value.
- Nerlens Christmas was a good defensive player for New York, but offensively he hasn’t improved much since joining the league. Even if Mitchell Robinson doesn’t re-sign with the Knicks, I doubt the front office will be thrilled to go into next season with Noel as a starting center.
So, that being said, here is the proposed trade:
The Knicks get
New York would get Porzingis back and people could pull out their jerseys (unless they got burned). The Knicks would completely replace Robinson and Noel’s production, aside from the high percentage of shots in the paint.
It would free up starting minutes for Toppin, and I think New York will work better when Toppin is allowed to attack from both outside and inside, instead of using him as a 3-point corner shooter. Because Porzingis can attack from both inside and outside, he would be a great attacking partner for Toppin and they would be interchangeable on offense.
The Knicks would also get Kyle Kuzma, who just might be the answer to the forward position the team has yet to get consistency on. But regardless of whether Kuzma would come off the bench or start at 3, he would provide spacing and scoring. Kuzma showed he could perform in a big city, like he did with the Lakers, and he’s been great for the Wizards since the trade.
Washington could replace Porzingis with Randle, who would most likely remain healthy for the season. The Wizards would also receive other pieces to compliment Bradley Beal in 2022-23. Porzingis didn’t seem to perform very well, not receiving enough attacking touches and Beal is similar to Luka Doncic in that regard.
New York missed the playoffs last season with little change to its 2021-22 roster. There’s also a good chance that the 11th pick in the draft won’t be the answer to all their problems. Maybe it’s time to see if it’s worth bringing Porzingis back to the team that drafted him.