If it’s shooting with size that Danny Ainge seeks, then Dallas could be a good place to look. But Ainge, the Boston Celtics’ president of basketball operations, would be wise not to tell Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban when he gets to town.
Following a Bleacher Report story indicating that Dallas is oh-so-quietly putting its finger to the wind on the trade value of big man Kristaps Porzingis (though to say “big man” would usually imply some sort of heft, which Porzingis, at 240 pounds dripping wet and with all his jewelry on, certainly lacks) Cuban seemed downright annoyed.
“It’s not accurate,” Cuban told Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News. “We have not discussed him in a trade at all. Has not happened.”
— NBA Retweet (@RTNBA) February 23, 2021
Notwithstanding Cuban’s denial, additional voices have emerged to the contrary. SNY’s Ian Begley reported Tuesday morning that Maverick officials reached out to the Golden State Warriors to gauge their interest in the 7-foot-3 Latvian. And Bleacher Report quoted an assistant general manager who agreed that Dallas was checking the market.
“They’ve definitely sniffed around on him,” said the unnamed source. “They’re taking the temperature, because they know at some point it’s gonna come around.”
Rare Combination of Size and Ability
Whether or not the Celtics could or would have an interest in Porzingis –– or even be allowed in the room –– remains to be seen. But there’s no doubting the former Knick would be an intriguing addition to a Celtics roster, albeit an expensive one, both monetarily and in who the Celtics would have to give up.
Porzingis is making $29.4 million this season, according to Spotrac, with increases of more than $2 million per year through 2023-24. The Celtics would presumably have to part ways with one of their two young stars, either Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown, with the latter being the more likely choice. Either would be a stretch, but the chance to get Porzingis’s rare combination of size and ability doesn’t come around often.
Porzingis’s ability to shoot from three (35.2%) would help the Celtics spread the floor and open up the lane by forcing one of the other team’s big men to cover the arc. If an opponent opted to put a smaller player on him, Porzingis could exploit his size advantage by taking him down low. This season Porzingis is averaging 3.1 shot attempts from the post position, up from 2.4 last year, according to NBA.com. Additionally, Porzingis’s length would give Boston an additional rim protector on defense.
But aside from blocking shots (2.0 per game for his career), Porzingis’s defense is worrisome. According to ESPN, at -0.87 he is ranked 71st amongst centers in real plus-minus, and one NBA executive reportedly told Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer that Porzingis “looks like a scarecrow out there” and that he wasn’t sure “the guy can guard anybody.”
Mavs Open to Offers
With the Mavericks (14-15) not living up to expectations thus far this season, it’s generally believed that Dallas’ president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, son of the legendary retired head coach and weed aficionado Don Nelson, is willing to entertain offers on everyone except 21-year-old MVP candidate Luka Doncic. And while Porzingis’s length and ability to play inside and out make him a particularly tantalizing prospect, some around the league fear his slim frame and injury history pose too great a risk.
Drafted fourth overall by the Knicks in 2015, Porzingis soon became a fan favorite. After being selected to the All-Star team in 2017-18, it seemed a foregone conclusion that he would be a Knicks fixture for years to come.
Porzingis’s All-Star season, however, was cut short after only 48 games when he tore his left ACL in a February game versus Milwaukee. And then a public spat with the much-reviled Chairman of Madison Square Garden Sports James Dolan soured his name within the upper ranks of the Knicks organization.
While still recovering from his ACL tear, Porzingis was traded to the Mavericks in January of 2019 in what was thought to be a steal for Dallas, despite not playing a game the entire 2018-19 season.
Indeed, Porzingis eventually recovered fully from his ACL injury, and since returning to activity duty in 2019 has put up solid, sometimes spectacular, numbers. This season he’s averaging 20.5 points and 8.2 rebounds a game. On February 8, he had 27 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks and four assists in a win against Minnesota. But just as injuries plagued his days in New York, being on the court since arriving in Dallas has proven difficult.
Last season, Porzingis played in only 57 regular-season games and he suffered a torn lateral meniscus of his right knee –– ultimately ending his year –– in the Mavs playoff series against the Clippers. (The Mavs were eliminated in six games.) Recovering from offseason surgery to repair the knee, Porzingis missed the first nine games of this season and is currently dealing with a back issue that threatens to keep him sidelined for several games.
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