Three Trade Ideas to Solve the Mavericks’ Porzingis Dilemma

By Pete Baxter

Kristaps Porzingis watched his scoring, rebounding, and block numbers decline during the regular season in 2020/21. He then watched those numbers completely crash during the playoffs.

Porzingis averaged just 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and less than a block a game in the Mavericks’ round one loss to the Clippers. These numbers would be acceptable for a role player. Not so much for a 7’3” player once proclaimed to be a “unicorn,” who has a deal worth over $30 million per year.

Porzingis had grown disgruntled, understandably so, in the dumpster fire that James Dolan had lit in New York. He had been highly productive when healthy but was coming off a full season lost to injury.

He was brought to Dallas to be the Scottie Pippen to Luka Doncic’s Michael Jordan. This seemed like a match made in heaven. Two young, European stars who could follow in the footsteps of Dirk Nowitzki to return the Dallas Mavericks to glory.

Two years into a $158 million contract in Dallas, and Porzingis seems even more disgruntled and just as injury-prone as he was when he left the Big Apple. He has expressed frustration not only with his (now former) coach Rick Carlisle as well as his co-star Luka Doncic. All signs seem to point to a mutual parting of ways coming during the offseason.

However, due between $31 and $36 million per year over the next three years, what type of market exists for an oft-disgruntled and oft-injured borderline All-Star? Not nearly the market the Mavericks would hope for. The Mavericks can surely relate to Daryl Morey and the 76ers front office as they determine next steps for their own overpaid, underperforming almost-superstar.

That said, there are at least three potential moves that the Mavericks could consider to not only move on from Porzingis, but potentially improve the supporting cast around Luka Doncic.

Trade #1: Sacramento Kings

The Kings receive: Kristaps Porzingis, Trey Burke, 2022 first-round pick

The Mavericks receive: Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley III

This could be a true win-win for both teams, who find themselves in a similar boat. Both teams have a young superstar point guard who needs an upgraded supporting cast.

Despite 23-year-old De’Aaron Fox putting up 25.2 points and 7.2 assists per game last season, the Sacramento Kings won just 31 games and Luke Walton and company missed the playoffs once again. In fact, the Kings haven’t made the playoffs since 2006. At that point, they were headlined by Ron Artest and Mike Bibby. Meanwhile, despite being a Bonafede MVP contender, Luka Doncic and the Mavericks fell in just he first round of the playoffs (despite Luka averaging 35.7 points, 7.9 boards and 10.3 assists in the series against the Clippers).

In this scenario, both teams essentially swap key elements of their own supporting casts. The Kings also receive a first-round pick to soften the blow of Porzingis’ massive contract.

The Mavericks receive an offensive dynamo and sharpshooter in Buddy Hield. Hield has never developed into the quite superstar that the Kings had hoped. However, during his five-year career he has solid averages of 16.0 points and 4.3 boards per game, while shooting over 40% from three-point range on 7.4 attempts per game. Hield could be deadly as a perimeter threat catching outlet passes from Doncic. The Mavericks are expected to bring back Tim Hardaway Jr. If they do, he and Hield would be an outstanding duo on the wing.

In Bagley, the Mavericks receive an oft-injured big with high potential. He is just 22 years old and has solid career averages of 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.

In Porzingis, the Kings receive a new wingman for their superstar in Fox. Porzingis is a stretch big who can play the four or the five and can stretch the floor. He is a former All-Star who, at just 26 years old, has career averages of 18.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game while shooting 36% from three-point range. A healthy Porzingis could pair with young rim-protector Richaun Holmes to create a truly formidable front court.

Trey Burke, meanwhile, is a solid veteran role player who can score off the bench and maintain backcourt depth for the Kings.

Let’s see where this leaves both potential starting lineups heading into next season:

Dallas Mavericks:

PG: Luka Doncic

SG: Tim Hardaway Jr. (free agent)

SF: Buddy Hield

PF: Dorian Finney-Smith

C: Marvin Bagley III

Sacramento Kings:

PG: De’Aaron Fox

SG: Terence Davis

SF: Harrison Barnes

PF: Kristaps Porzingis

C: Richaun Holmes

In both scenarios, we can see an upgrade. Both teams would be expected to make the playoffs, and the Mavericks would be expected to make a deep playoff run.

Trade #2: Portland Trail Blazers

The Trail Blazers receive: Kristaps Porzingis, Jalen Brunson

The Mavericks receive: C.J. McCollum, Nassir Little

The Portland Trail Blazers have made more headlines than ever already during their offseason. Damian Lillard’s future is a question mark, and new head coach Chauncey Billups has faced a firestorm of criticism already due to his past legal troubles.

One thing seems clear; the Trail Blazers are poised to make a major move in an attempt to beef up Damian Lillard’s supporting cast.

With this deal, the Trail Blazers receive a former All-Star to pair with fellow European big Jusuf Nurkic. Nurkic is a rebounder and a rim protector, and potentially a perfect balance for Porzingis’ finesse game. They would make a very intriguing frontcourt.

They would also receive a highly productive guard in Jalen Brunson. While he does not immediately fill C.J. McCollum’s shoes, he is a similarly undersized guard who, at just 24 years old, averaged 12.6 points on 40% shooting from three for the Mavericks last season. He could be an outstanding backup to Lillard, or create a solid dual-point guard, small-ball lineup.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks receive perhaps the perfect backcourt running mate for Luka Doncic. McCollum is 29-year-old a borderline All-Star who has averaged over 20 points per game each of the last six seasons. He is a career 39.8% shooter from three. He is a deadly marksman, and is used to playing next to a ball-dominant point guard.

They also receive Nassir Little, a high-potential 21-year old forward, who, at just 6’5”, has an insane 7’2” wingspan and should quickly become an elite defender. He also shot 35% from three, though he averaged just 1.7 attempts per game in limited action. His defensive prowess could be a great match next to the offensive firepower of a Doncic/McCollum backcourt.

Let’s take a look at where this leaves the potential starting lineups next season:

Dallas Mavericks:

PG: Luka Doncic

SG: C.J. McCollum

SF: Tim Hardaway Jr. (free agent)/Nassir Little

PF: Dorian Finney-Smith

C: Dwight Powell

Trail Blazers:

PG: Damian Lillard

SG: Jalen Brunson

SF: Robert Covington

PF: Kristaps Porzingis

C: Jusuf Nurkic

Once again, both teams appear to be upgraded following these deals. Intriguing, for sure.

Trade #3: Toronto Raptors

The Raptors receive: Kristaps Porzingis, Trey Burke

The Mavericks receive: Kyle Lowry (sign-and-trade), Aron Baynes

This is a fascinating deal for both sides.

With this deal, the Raptors officially move on from the Kyle Lowry era. Fred VanVleet officially becomes the point guard and leader of this team. Kristaps Porzingis fills the front court void left when Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka both left in the previous offseason. At 25 years old, Porzingis, already a former All-Star despite his injury struggles, fits perfectly in the timeline created by the current core of VanVleet (27 years old), O.G. Anunoby (23 years old) and Pascal Siakam (27 years old).

That core (plus Lowry and company) fell just a game short of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019/20. They also all became champions the year prior. Along with former coach-of-the-year Nick Nurse, Porzingis could find himself in a perfect place to develop as a player and a winner. He also joins Anunoby and Siakam in a potentially dominant frontcourt.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks receive a perennial All-Star, champion, and proven leader to build a new culture alongside with new head coach Jason Kidd. Lowry is widely regarded as the greatest Raptor in franchise history, and is credited with leading the once down-trodden franchise to a near-decade of contention (as well as a championship). He is still producing at a borderline All-Star level, having averaged 17.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game last season.

Lowry is also accustomed to operating in a dual point guard system next to VanVleet. This should allow him to play comfortably next to Doncic.

The Mavericks also receive Aron Baynes. While he saw his numbers and production drop last season, struggling to fill the role vacated by the Gasol/Ibaka combo in Toronto, he has proven himself to be a strong defender and rim protector as well as an above average shooter for a big. Just a year earlier, he averaged 11.5 points for the Suns while shooting 35% from three. He would be a solid addition to the Maverick’s frontcourt depth.

Let’s take a look at where this leaves both lineups:

Dallas Mavericks:

PG: Luka Doncic

SG: Kyle Lowry

SF: Tim Hardaway Jr. (Free Agent, expected to re-sign)

PF: Dorian Finney-Smith

C: Dwight Powell

Toronto Raptors:

PG: Fred VanVleet

SG: Gary Trent Jr. (Free Agent, expected to re-sign)

SF: O.G. Anunoby

PF: Pascal Siakam

C: Kristaps Porzingis

The Mavericks receive a leader in the locker room, a player with championship pedigree, and a second All-Star next to Doncic. The Raptors receive a stretch five who, if able to stay remotely healthy, rounds out a potentially dominant front court with two-to-three potential All-Stars (particularly if Anunoby takes another step forward).

Both teams would be expected to make deep playoff runs next season.

In Conclusion

Kristaps Porzingis is a fascinating player. A 7’3” giant who can run the floor, shoot from deep, and block shots. When healthy, he shows flashes of being a true superstar in the league.

Amazingly, injury concerns and growing attitude/locker room concerns have made what once seemed like a no-brainer of a $158 million deal look like an immovable deadweight salary. That said, at just 25-years old, there are clearly several teams that could benefit from acquiring the Latvian star.

More to come.

Published by Pete of the North

Avid sports fan and obsessed statistician. Binge drinker turned writer. Toronto Raptors fan since the O.G. Zan Tabak. Based out of Albany, NY. Cheers!

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