Dallas is looking awfully European after the shocking series of events on Thursday that saw Kristaps Porzingis traded to the Mavs to join Luka Doncic, Maxi Kleber, and Dirk Nowitzki. Emmet Ryan on the unusual move and the interesting shared history of the Porzingis and Doncic
First of all, wow, but we’ll get to the nitty gritty of the move in a moment. The last time Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis shared a floor it was in Istanbul in the quarter finals of EuroBasket 2017. Even prior to the game, we expected a belter and it lived up to it and more. Luka and Porzingis went all out, along with fine supporting casts and a touch of beef at the end from the two rosters, in delivering the unquestioned game of the tournament.
The other shared bit of history comes in the form of Willy Hernangomez. The now Charlotte Hornet was on loan from Real Madrid when he and Porzingis were crucial players in keeping Sevilla (now Real Betis) from avoiding relegation in Spain’s ACB. Porzingis would go straight to the Knicks as a questioned Euro draft pick compared to the more NBA ready Mario Hezonja and four years is a long time in basketball. Hernangomez would go back to Madrid for a season to play with Doncic in the youngster’s first full* season as a pro before joining Porzingis in New York a year later.
*Irrelevant but quirky stat, Doncic won his first Spanish league title before Hernangomez as he was added to the Real roster after the Euroleague Final Four in 2015 and ended up part of the championship side. He and Hernangomez would both taste league, Intercontinental Cup, and Copa del Rey glory the next season.
I suppose the one other thing they share is that both had their athleticism questioned before jumping to the NBA but Kristaps got swole and everybody else is basically mesmerised by Luka in his debut season so that’s not really a thing.
How on earth did we get here? I know the answer is ‘because the Knicks’ but it’s still mad. We’re less than 3 years removed from Porzingis having a short film mad about him as Porzingod, the new saviour of the Knicks, starring John Leguizamo.
Over the course of minutes, the story of Kristaps wanting to be traded broke and then evolved into a deal being finalised with the Mavericks, all the way up to the bulk of the details of the trade being clear. Then, just when you figured it was enough information over a 15 minute period (I don’t know how breaking news sites cope, I really don’t, you have my admiration) it became clear that Porzingis will take the qualifying offer which means the Mavs will still have a whole pile of cap space this summer.
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It’s a risky move by Porzingis coming off a serious injury but to think that he was willing to make the bet in Dallas rather than New York, where you’d figure he’d have a leg up in getting the deal he wants comparatively, really tells you how much he wanted out. This isn’t a NBA first site, I won’t pretend to have any insight into the deeper goings on, but anyone with functioning eyes and a basic understanding of what jobs are could see that.
The idea that Luka Doncic, at the midway point of his rookie season, is already a real asset in attracting talent really is something. Ricky Rubio was as fun as it gets in his rookie year but there was, to the surprise of nobody, zero impact on the needle in Minnesota because of course there wasn’t. Most rookies who have good starts or even great ones don’t do that and Doncic simply has to be a bigger factor in this than Dirk.
Porzingis is opting to go to a team in the tougher conference, whose best player right now is 19, and whose biggest star is likely to retire come the end of the year, although it would be very Dirk to want to play at 41 just because that’s his number.
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For all of the bravado and business success of Mark Cuban, coupled with his ability to point at a banner from this decade, Dallas has not been a city that tends to win the race for superstar talent. Now, he’s adding a player who turns 24 in the summer alongside a guy who’ll be 20 in his sophomore year, both are on team friendly deals for the year to come, and all of this essentially came from Trae Young and Dennis Smith Jr.
Honestly, short of Giannis opting not to re-up at the end of 2021 (it would be very Cuban to keep Kostas on the roster until then just to keep the line of communications open), I don’t see how this team gets more Euro-friendly. Dirk may retire but he’s going to stay around the organisation in some capacity, two of the hottest young Euros in history are now in position to be franchise cornerstones, and Maxi Kleber is a solid rotation guy who fits well with Doncic.
That gif has done the rounds quite a bit. It was born from a deliberately silly promotional video by Euroleague before Doncic’s last season. Even if you don’t know any of the players, trust me you want to hear Edgaras Ulanovas attempt to rap.
In what really works out to be a really low risk deal for Dallas on the whole, given the room for manoeuvre they have maintained despite now being on the hook for three draft picks going forward, and the continent now has eye-popping reasons to care more about the Mavs. Quite the night indeed.
Screw it, let’s get Willy traded to the Mavs so the band can be properly together.
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