By John Schmeelk
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In a ridiculously crazy day in the NBA, The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Tuesday that the Knicks were fielding a “frenzy” of calls from teams interested in Kristaps Porzingis and that the Knicks are open to moving him.
After a lot of internet panic from (rightfully) concerned Knicks fans, reports emerged from ESPN’s Zach Lowe, The Vertical’s Chris Mannix and Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck that the Knicks were asking for an extremely high return and not very serious about moving their franchise player.
The truth of the matter is that few players in this league are untouchable. LeBron James is one. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are others. So are Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. It would be hard to figure out why the Timberwolves would ever deal Karl-Anthony Towns or the Pelicans would shop Anthony Davis. There might be a few more, but there aren’t many. What do all those players have in common? They are all better than Porzingis.
That’s not to say Porzingis can’t become one of those players. He has a chance to get there, but there’s no guarantee he does. Injuries or something else unexpected could derail his promising career. Given how bad the Knicks are, it would be irresponsible not to listen to what teams are offering for someone of Porzingis’ ability.
What if the Celtics offered their first-rounder this year, their pick with the right to switch with the Nets next season and another first-round pick or player? The Knicks would have to sign on the dotted line because the Celtics would be overpaying. What if the 76ers offered a pair of unprotected potential lottery picks over the next couple of seasons (including this year’s first overall) and were also willing to send the Knicks Dario Saric and take back Joakim Noah’s contract? Maybe, before striking a deal with the Nets on Tuesday, Lakers president Magic Johnson had been desperate and stupid enough to have offered the Knicks the No. 2 overall pick, D’Angelo Russell, another draft pick and a young player such as Julius Randle?
The chance of offers of that caliber being made is slim to none, but how would the Knicks know if they weren’t taking phone calls and listening? There is no harm in listening for an offer that might help the Knicks rebuild quicker with more assets. If teams aren’t willing to overpay, the Knicks would just stand pat, pick a good player at No. 8 (preferably French point guard Frank Ntikilina or Kentucky shooting guard Malik Monk) and call it a night.
The Knicks shouldn’t trade Porzingis for one high pick or even a high pick and a player. If any of the players selected in the top 10 of this draft are playing at Porzingis’ level in their second season, they will be an enormous success. There’s no guarantee of that happening with any 2017 draft pick, making Porzingis more valuable than any player that has never taken a shot in the NBA.
I understand fans being nervous given Knicks president Phil Jackson’s track record and inability to put together good trades. He has not shown the ability to pull off a trade of this magnitude and get back good value. Another fair concern is listening to trade offers could potentially alienate Porzingis further and make it less likely that he will be in a Knicks uniform long-term. That being said, listening never hurt anything other than feelings, and those heal over time. Unless, of course, Jackson did something really stupid. But he would never do something like that … right? Oh, never mind.
• Johnson did not start his tenure in the Lakers front office well. You do not trade a two-year point guard that was the second overall pick in the draft and played well last year (Russell) for a player that’s a one-year rental (Brook Lopez), a pick in the late 20s and a chance to dump a salary (Timofey Mozgov, who has three years remaining on a four-year, $64 million contract). Salary cap space in this league can often be fool’s gold, and the Lakers might regret trading a young, talented player for a chance at signing veterans (namely LeBron James and Paul George) who might not even want to go there in 2018.
• It was a tremendous trade for the Nets. They have plenty of cap space, and by taking on Mozgov’s contract, they added a 21-year-old with tremendous upside who could be a franchise-level point guard in a couple of years. The awful Billy King-Celtics trade made it nearly impossible for the Nets to find players like that, but new general manager Sean Marks figured out a way with that trade to get one. Well done!
• The Lakers are going to have to do better than offer up Jordan Clarkson or Randle and two picks in the late 20s for George. The Pacers’ four-time All-Star is a premier wing, and it will take something of greater value to get him, despite his guarantee to leave Indiana in 2018.
• Jimmy Butler is really good, and I’m not sure any team would have been able to put together enough of a package to get the Bulls to move him. He has since stated he wants to stay with the Bulls, making a trade less likely.
• The Cavaliers can change GMs all they want, but it won’t change the fact they have three assets on their team who are attractive: James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. No one else has much value, which will make it very difficult for them to pull off any type of significant trade to make them better.
• Celtics president Danny Ainge has done a great job compiling assets. It’s time for him to finally pull the trigger and turn them into a star who can help his team. If he doesn’t do that, he should just trade Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford for younger players and go with a complete youth movement. The Celtics are trying to have it both ways right now.
For everything Knicks, Giants, and the world of sports, follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk