Porzingis looked like a shell of his former athletic self. Porzingis was once a shot-blocking menace and versatile scoring option, but in the Clippers series, he was relegated to spot-up shooting duties.
ESPN recently reported Porzingis and franchise superstar Luka Doncic don’t have a particularly rosy relationship, and that Porzingis has felt frustrated with his role in Dallas. The once-beloved Unicorn went from averaging 23.7 points and 8.7 rebounds on 52% from three in the 2020 playoffs to 13.7 points and 5.4 rebounds on 29% from deep.
Considering his litany of leg injuries in his rearview mirror, it’s fair to question if Porzingis’ body will ever be the same, even though he’s just 25. On the other hand, he’s still shown the ability to get his shot off at will thanks to his 7-foot-3 frame. There’s also hope that he can finally have an offseason devoted to improving his game rather than rehabbing yet another injury.
Nevertheless, expect the fake trade machines to be churning this offseason. Let’s inspect five potential Porzingis trades.
Trade 1: Kristaps Porzingis to the Celtics
This deal is more of a “hey, we’re both unhappy with our injured, expensive dude. Want to switch?” At their peak levels, which are still only a year or so in the past, both Porzingis and Kemba Walker bring vital skillsets for an NBA squad.
Porzingis can theoretically bomb away from deep and score over mismatches (although not in the Clippers series). Walker, meanwhile, has displayed elite blow-by ability thanks to his tight handle and impeccable crossover skills.
The issue with both players is that a lot of disclaimers about their incredible basketball skills come with the qualifier “when healthy”. Walker and Porzingis have both dealt with persistent knee issues that have required everything from surgery to stem cell and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) recovery methods.
But if both players can recover from their various ailments, Dallas receives a veteran backcourt mate for Doncic who can break down a defense off the dribble while the Celtics receive a big man who can space the floor and potentially form a twin towers lineup with the improving Robert Williams.
Trade 2: Porzingis to the Trail Blazers
Porzingis’ value has cratered so much that the Blazers might not agree to this move. But it’s something they should definitely consider because Portland badly needs a shakeup of sorts this summer.
Just imagine a Damian Lillard-Porzingis pick-and-pop, with Lillard either burning his man off the dribble or kicking it back out to Porzingis for a three.
In all his years in Portland, Lillard has never had a worthy pick-and-pop dance partner. Jusuf Nurkic and Enes Kanter are better at rolling while LaMarcus Aldridge wasn’t shooting threes back in 2014. Zach Collins has shown potential, but it feels as if he’s spent more time on the injury report than the court.
By also throwing in Jalen Brunson, Dallas is giving up a valuable secondary ball-handler and one of the best backup point guards in the league. The Blazers have historically struggled with Lillard off the floor, and with Anfernee Simons developing at snail's pace, Brunson would be a big factor in this deal.
If Portland pulled the trigger and re-signed Norm Powell, their startling lineup could be Lillard-Powell-Robert Covington-Porzingis-Nurkic. That’s a lot of offensive firepower and shooting. As for the defense? It’s not like the Blazers can be any worse than they were this season, and maybe Porzingis can get back in a groove on that end.
Portland could bring the guard duo of Simons and Brunson off the bench to provide some stability while Lillard rests. In return, the Mavericks take a flyer on the athletic Nassir Little who has showcased quality scoring ability on the NBA stage, and finally get a star backcourt mate for Doncic.
If Dallas can re-sign Tim Hardaway Jr., they could field three-guard lineups with Doncic and McCollum, which would set the league on fire on the offensive end. Dallas would have to hope center Dwight Powell improves more after blowing Achilles, but it’s much easier to find a reliable big man on the free-agent market than a surefire secondary ball-handler who can cook in isolation.
Trade 3: Porzingis to the Bulls
It’s gotten dark very fast for the Bulls. Chicago in some deep trouble after giving away two future first-round picks for Nikola Vucevic, who was unable to help them reach the 10th seed in the East. With Lauri Markkanen seemingly on the way out, the Bulls should be trying to accumulate more talent to build around Vucevic and star guard Zach LaVine.
Dallas would be getting off Porzingis’ massive salary, which is probably a win in their eyes. They wouldn’t receive a star, sure, but instead, they'd acquire four quality role players who all fill different roles.
Coby White hasn’t gained coach Billy Donovan’s trust, but he’s still just 21. White is a quick-twitch scorer with a knack for getting his shot off at all areas of the floor. He has a long way to go in the playmaking department, but Doncic has got that job covered.
Ultimately, the Mavericks lost to the Clippers because they had very few options to turn to other than Doncic on offense. White represents a cheap and productive addition. Thaddeus Young may be a grizzled veteran, but he’s a reliable frontcourt passer who would beef up Dallas’s defense. Tomas Satoransky may not be the most explosive player in the league, but he’s a steady rotational guard who doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and can credibly space the floor. Al-Farouq Aminu is included mostly for salary purposes, but he’s still an athletic frontcourt body that could find his way into Rick Carlisle's rotation.
By making this move, the Mavericks would have a deeper team and more financial flexibility to chase a true second star.
Trade 4: Porzingis to the Kings
It seems as if there’s a new report every few months that Marvin Bagley and Buddy Hield are not long for Sacramento. Bagley has struggled with injuries and has difficulties protecting the rim and spacing the floor, while Hield has had issues with coach Luke Walton and doesn’t appear to be an organizational priority with De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton manning the backcourt.
Adding Hield and his elite three-point shooting skills would be a boon for an already potent Mavericks offense. While Hield doesn’t quite solve Dallas’ lack of a secondary offensive creator, his unlimited shooting range alongside Hardaway Jr. and Dorian Finney-Smith could stretch defenses to their breaking point.
The Kings have let everyone and their mother know that they’re open to trading Bagley, who is up for a contract extension this offseason and will be a restricted free agent in 2022. Adding Porzingis might complicate things if they bring back Richaun Holmes, but if Sacramento is hell-bent on siphoning off Bagley and Hield, nabbing Porzingis is a pretty solid return.
The Porzingis we just saw this postseason could very well be a different player from the one that will return after an offseason devoted to working on his game. After all, he’s only a year removed from lighting the nets on fire against the Clippers in the bubble.
Trade 5: Porzingis to the Wizards
From Washington’s perspective, Davis Bertans was atrocious in the playoffs. He already offers zero defense, and his calling card is supposed to be laser three-point shooting, but he shot a substandard 35%. He has $60 million remaining on his contract that lasts four more seasons, which is starting to enter albatross territory.
Robin Lopez is here for salary purposes, but he’s a dependable backup center who would set some wicked screens to help spring Doncic. He also possesses a wonderfully unique post-up game that has flummoxed defenders.
The true mystery prize in this deal is Deni Avdija, the Israeli-Serbian rookie forward who lost a chunk of his season to injury, but has all the tools to become a sweet-shooting, playmaking forward in the mold of Danilo Gallinari. Dallas’ roster isn’t exactly overflowing with prospects who possess Avdija’s potential.
By making this deal, the Wizards are looking at a potential big three of Porzingis, Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal, which could be a glorious disaster or a juggernaut depending on factors such as health, fit and role acceptance.
If the Wizards pulled the trigger, the only other big men on their roster would be Daniel Gafford and Thomas Bryant. Bryant is coming off a torn ACL, while Gafford could be a good complement to Porzingis’ weak frame which leaves him susceptible to lower rebound numbers.
There’s no doubt Dallas has got to be worried about Porzingis’ long-term outlook and his decaying trade value. But there is hope for a greater future, either by way of Porzingis improving or pulling the trigger on one of these fascinating deals.
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