When the Mavericks traded for Porzingis, did they overpay for him? Let’s look at other trades this offseason and compare.
Back in January, when the Dallas Mavericks executed a blockbuster trade for the Knicks’ Unicorn, Kristaps Porzingis, the trade was met with both elation and skepticism. The Mavs paid a high price to get access to him and took on additional contracts just to get a CHANCE at signing an injured restricted free agent this offseason. Mark Cuban made it known that the team would offer KP a full max level contract as soon as free agency opened and he was absolutely a man of his word, signing the player to a 5 yr $158M contract with no restrictions and a player option as covered by Mavs Nation here. So after paying him a max salary and giving up assets to get him, did the Mavs overpay a player they THEORETICALLY could have signed this offseason if they wanted to?
For reference, let’s look at the Mavs’ trade package for the 7’3” power forward:
ALERT: #Mavs announce trade – have acquired All-Star Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, and Trey Burke in exchange for Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews and two first-rd picks. In related move, have waived rookie Ray Spalding. pic.twitter.com/OWQGdeyb7q
— mike fisher ✭ (@fishsports) January 31, 2019
The picks referenced in this tweet are two top 5 protected, first round picks in 2021 & 2023. So if you look at the players involved in this trade, the Mavs sent away Dennis, DeAndre & Wes and got back Hardaway, Lee & Burke, which are essentially offsetting salaries. True, the Mavs traded expiring contracts in DeAndre and Wes for contracts with remaining years on the books with Hardaway and Lee, but those can be tradeable assets down the line. This is obviously slightly oversimplified, but the mathematical point still stands.
So REALLY, Porzingis came to the Mavs for the price of 2 first-round picks. That…doesn’t sound that bad. Even if my overly simplified logic still sounds like a lot just for ACCESS to sign a player, let’s compare it to some other contracts. I realize that comparing players to other players is a fruitless endeavor because all players have different values on the court, accolades and skills, but for this exercise, we’re focusing on the perceived value by the teams involved by way of assets for the player traded. I present to you 3 trades that occurred this offseason well AFTER Porzingis became a Maverick involving first-round picks to see how well the Mavs bargained.
FULL TRADE DETAILS:
2019 No. 4 overall pick
2 future 1st-round picks.
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) June 15, 2019
Again, I know Porzingis is not Anthony Davis. However, the two of them were BOTH valued by the teams that traded for them. The Davis trade was a COUP of a package acquired by the Pelicans that netted them 3 players still on rookie contracts as well as 3 first-round picks for 1 player. Yes, that 1 player is Anthony Davis and he is a top 5 player in the league, but the value of him resulted in ostensibly 6 former and future first-round picks in value. Therefore, Porzingis is valued at 1/3 of the cost of Anthony Davis (because he was only worth 2 picks) should be considered quite the value based on his prospective contribution to the Mavericks.
Chris Paul/Russell Westbrook
FULL TRADE DETAILS:
2024 and 2026 first-round picks
Pick swaps in 2021 and 2025
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) July 12, 2019
A trade that sent Russell Westbrook to play with his former Thunder teammate and the aging Chris Paul into exile with the complete rebuilding OKC core. Clearly, the Rockets ended up with the more effective star player in Westbrook but gave up 2 first rounders and 2 chances to better their draft positions by having the option to pick swap. The Rockets got off a bad contract for his production but took on one of the largest other contracts in the league to do so. And they did this trade for a soon-to-be 31 yr old point guard with a ton of mileage and a game built solely on his athleticism. Well, Porzingis is only 24 yrs old and, outside of injury, should be approaching his prime, rather than on the downswing of it like these swapped point guards. Not to mention, both KP and Luka’s contracts combined are less than either Paul or Westbrook’s contracts going forward… Furthermore, the Rockets have mortgaged their draft future through the 2026 draft, or 7 years from now to capitalize on Harden’s closing window. For perspective, the Porzingis trade is finished in 2023, or just as Doncic would start his second contract. The value of the Porzingis trade while compared to this trade should be readily apparent.
FULL BLOCKBUSTER TRADE DETAILS:
2022, 2024 and 2026 1st-round picks
2021 and 2023 first-round picks (via Miami)
Pick swap with Clippers in 2023 and 2025
— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) July 6, 2019
The trade that broke the Oklahoma City Thunder. This surprise trade sent the NBA world into chaos as it was unsuspected and unreported prior to the deal, which sent a super team to the Clippers and destroyed a Thunder team who had been a playoff for a decade. This trade made history with the gargantuan haul that OKC received in exchange for PG. Not only did they receive 2 solid players, one 1st round rookie and the other a 10 yr vet, but they got all the picks. Five. First. Round. Picks. Literally unheard of.
Again, the point of this exercise is not to say that Porzingis is as good as or better than Paul George, but to look at the market and decide if the Mavs got a good deal in their trade. The fact that PG was valuable enough for 5 unprotected first-round picks on top of pick swaps and players says that PG is quite possibly the NEW most valuable player in the league if by nothing more than the price tag spent to acquire him. With the Mavs taking on 2 longer salaries (that can be turned into trade bait) and gave up 2 picks for Porzingis should look like a steal to any NBA fan.
It’s true, Porzingis will not have played NBA basketball for 20 months since he sustained the injury and the Mavs have taken a gamble on a player who’s health has been in question since he came to the league. However, Paul George suffered a season-ending injury that saw his injury history improve where he averaged 71.5 games/season pre-injury and 78 games/season after the injury and Chris Paul has had an injury-plagued CAREER, so health is not always an indicator of perceived value to teams throughout the league. For further proof, look at Kevin Durant this offseason. The Nets acquired a player who WILL NOT PLAY this year for a near max 4 yr $164M deal because players of his caliber are worth the risk.
Lastly, it is clear that PG, Westbrook, and Davis are ALL in a place to contend right now and all moves were made to do that, but the Mavs clearly had an eye towards the future with Porzingis. The trade for him was made necessary by the nearly unparalleled success of Luka Doncic’s rookie campaign, so getting a player in KP that is on his timeline was an essential part of the team calculous. So as these teams start to see their window close in two or three years, the Mavs core will be peaking with KP at 27 and Luka at 23-24. The Mavs are playing the long game and it shows.
The Mavs did their homework and took care of their future at last year’s trade deadline to make sure they got their guy well before the market went truly crazy this offseason with blockbuster trade after the blockbuster trade that drove each deal higher and higher in cost as the offseason closed. The player that Porzingis is would have garnered a great deal of interest as a restricted free agent that the Mavs would probably not be able to match in any real way.
The trade for Porzingis rather than acquiring him during free agency was the smartest play the Mavs could have made for him from both an acquisition standpoint and from a financial one. They got a player that could be a superstar for many years for less than other teams this offseason, so the Mavs are entitled to a little bit of the bubbly!
Featured Image: Tony Gutierrez - Associated Press