BY: MATTHEW EMERY
It’s never a dull moment in the NBA. While NBA Twitter was obsessing over the possibility of an Anthony Davis trade, the Knicks, in a shocking move, traded Kristaps Prozingis to the Dallas Mavericks. This was perhaps the most surprising trade we’ve seen in while as it came without a formal trade demand or much rumors. In fact, it manifested before any rumors had time to take off.
The New York Knicks officially traded Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke and Courtney Lee to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, and two future first round draft picks (2021 and 2023).
With this trade, the Knicks have cleared about $73M in cap space for this coming summer. The key was trading Hardaway’s and Lee’s long term contracts for Jordan’s and Matthew’s expiring contracts. The Knicks created about an extra $40M in cap space with this trade, and it’s a strong signal that they have their eyes set on signing two max free agents in the summer of 2019. More specifically, this trade gave the Knicks enough cap space to sign two max free agents, one at 30% of cap and another at 35% of the cap. That’s enough to sign both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant… other potential players could be Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, and/or DeMarcus Cousins?
The Knicks also garnished a young up-and-coming point guard in Smith Jr. The Knicks also now have the bird rights to Jordan, Matthews, and Enes Kanter this off-season, but the team will likely renounce all of those rights to avoid the cap holds and to receive the cap space required to pursue max free agents. In addition, the Knicks project to have a high first-round draft pick this year. The cap hold associated with a top five pick ranges between $5,327,300 – $8,120,700, and it would not inhibit their ability to still offer two max contracts. Assuming that the Knicks get the #3 draft pick, and sign him to the full 120% scale, their cap sheet on July 1 would look like this:
Take a look at that max cap space figure! Overall, the team has put itself in an excellent position for this upcoming summer, but there will certainly be skepticism among the fan base. Only time will tell with this trade from the Knick’s perspective and it’s best to reserve judgment, but the team certainly has picked a direction.
Make no mistake about it, I love this trade for Dallas. Assuming that Porzingis is healthy, they get another European big who can stretch the floor (and replace Dirk Nowitzki) and play off the ball with Luka Doncic. Dallas also gets out of an awkward Dennis Smith situation. Sure, Lee’s and Hardaway’s contracts are a bit high, but they make for great role players who can spot up and hit the open three, a necessary skill in today’s NBA. So, what are the team’s options moving forward?
Hardaway’s and Lee’s contracts will certainly inhibit Dallas’s ability to go after a max free agent until the summer of 2020. Also, I would expect Hardaway to exercise his 2020-2021 player option. Their max cap space this coming summer will be about $26M, but make no mistake about it, this trade was all about getting back to the play-offs and building a core now. The team’s trajectory seems to have moved to win-now mode with the rise of Luka.
The Mavericks will submit to Porzingis his $4.5M qualifying offer (they have until June 29) in order to make him a RFA. Once they do so, the team can match any offer sheet he signs within seven days. However, if he accepts the qualifying offer, then he can play for Dallas for his 5th NBA season, and then become an UFA in 2020. Because Porzingis failed to qualify for the “starter criteria,” as he will not play at least 41 game this year, he won’t get the higher qualifying offer of $7.5M.
Of course, Dallas could also offer Porzingis the Maximum Qualifying Offer this off-season in addition to the regular qualifying offer. A maximum qualifying offer is a full contract for five seasons at the maximum salary with 8% annual raises. This would equate to a five year/$158M deal. A few notes. A maximum qualifying offer may only be offered to a player coming off his rookie scale contract and it cannot have any options or ETOs. Furthermore, Porzingis can only receive 25% of the cap, not 30%. The 30% figure is only applicable when the (1) player is entering his 5th NBA season, (2) he meets the All-NBA criteria, and (3) he is resigning with the team that either drafted him or acquired him on his rookie scale contract. Since Porzingis won’t qualify for the All-NBA criteria, his maximum salary will be 25%. I should also note that the submission of the maximum qualifying offer would alter the kind of offer sheet Porzingis could sign this off-season. With all that said, it appears that Porzingis is willing to sign the qualifying offer.
Accepting the regular qualifying offer gives each party one year to preview how the pairing of Porzingis and Doncic would work in the long term. So it may be a good situation. If Porzingis ultimately decides to accept the one year qualifying offer and becomes an UFA in 2020, then he can resign with the Mavericks on a 5 year/$173M deal. This assumes a $118M Salary Cap for the 2019-2020 NBA season. You may be asking how he gets more money ($15M more) in 2020 than in 2019? Well, the maximum salary in any NBA season is tied to the Salary Cap, so where there is a big Salary Cap spike, the player’s maximum salary percentage is a larger piece of the pie and he makes more over time.
In either scenario, him signing a maximum qualifying offer or signing of a new contract in 2020, he can receive a five-year contract because (1) he is a designated player and (2) Dallas would have Full Bird Rights. These are circumstances which allow a team to offer him a longer contract. The standard NBA contract is four seasons.
In the end, Dallas likely has two perennial NBA All-Stars who could eventually transform the power landscape of the NBA.
A few interesting CBA notes regarding this trade. Dallas chose to treat this trade, at least in part, as a non-simultaneous trade (unlike New York). This means that the Mavericks have one year to complete the trade. The team generated a nearly $13M trade credit that it can later use to acquire one player from another team.
One last nerdy CBA question and note. What are the procedures relating to the trading a player that is injured?
Article XXII of the CBA addresses this issue. Section 4(b) provides in part: “[s]hould it be requested in connection with the contemplated assignment of a player’s Uniform Player Contract to one or more NBA Teams, a Team’s physician may furnish all relevant medical information relating to the player to (i) the physicians and General Manager, coaches, and trainers of such other Team or Teams.” Also, players are required to pass physical exams as a condition to completing the trade. Given this provision and practice, I’ll assume the Mavericks have reviewed medical information relating to Porzingis’s left ACL tear and felt comfortable enough to go forward with the trade.
I like this team for both sides, although I like it more for Dallas initially. As with all of these moves, they cannot be judged until certain events unfold. We have to see that Porzingis is still the same player he was and we also have to see how free agency plays out in 2019. No doubt, it will be eventful. This is the NBA, we get 2-3 nice stories or surprises every month, and this summer will be no exception.