Knicks, Mavericks agree on blockbuster deal

The Dallas Mavericks have agreed to a deal with the New York Knicks to land star big man Kristaps Porzingis, two people with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed to USA TODAY Sports. The people spoke under the condition of anonymity because the trade had not yet been made official. 

The Mavericks have agreed to trade Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews and, in addition to Porzingis, will receive Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee. 

Porzingis, a 7-3 forward who has been sidelined since last February after suffering a torn ACL, is just 23 and has the potential to be one of the best players in the league if healthy. He was drafted fourth overall by the Knicks in 2015.

In a stunning move, a week ahead of the Feb. 7 trade deadline, the Mavericks add a talented European big man to go alongside rookie sensation Luka Doncic of Slovenia. Doncic averages 20.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists and is on pace to join Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson as the only rookies to average at least 20-6-5.

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Doncic relishes his role as the primary ball-handler – a point forward – and the Mavericks envision a dynamic two-man game, including pick-and-rolls, with Doncic and Porzingis.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has a great offensive mind, and it should be fun to see what he draws up for those gifted players.

Porzingis is a restricted free agent this summer, and the Mavericks have the right to match any offer from another team. Porzingis also has the option of accepting a qualifying offer and playing for Dallas in 2019-20 and becoming an unrestricted free agent following that season.

Porzingis’ time with the Knicks never amounted to what could’ve been. In his three seasons on the court, he averaged 17.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and showed three-point efficiency in 2017-18 before sustaining his season-ending injury. He showed flashes of turning into a star, but the Knicks never had enough talent around him.

They won 32, 31 and 29 games in his first three seasons and have the worst record in the league this season, leading to frustration. During Porzingis’ time in the Big Apple, the Knicks are on their third head coach, not including Kurt Rambis’ interim spell, and second front-office regime change. A split may be the best direction for both parties.

For the Knicks, the unexpected move has wide-ranging possibilities, most notably a significant amount of salary cap space that will allow the Knicks to offer max contracts to two big-name free agents in July.

New York could have as much as $76.4 million in salary cap space in free agency this summer, according to ESPN. Team executives around the league believe the Knicks will go after Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Boston’s Kyrie Irving in free agency. Suddenly, they have the money to do it, and players and agents around the league like Knicks general manager Scott Perry and coach David Fizdale.

Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter.

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