How Does the Kristaps Porzingis Trade Impact the Mavs’ Draft Plans?

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In case you missed it, the Mavericks acquired Kristaps Porzingis, Courtney Lee, Trey Burke, and Tim Hardaway Junior for Dennis Smith Jr, DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, and two future first round picks. Let’s take a look at what all of this means and an overview of the players involved in the trade:

DeAndre Jordan:

Jordan’s short time in Dallas can be viewed as mediocre at best. He led the league in rebounding, but for the second year in a row his blocks per game and blocks percentage took a major turn for the worst. Prior to the 2017-18 season, Jordan had a block percentage above 4% each year. Last year his block percentage was 2.4% and this year 2.8%. This was an area he obviously struggled to commit to every game. Offensively, Jordan was hesitant to role to the basket in the P&R in the halfcourt, and also became more of a playmaker- leading to a career high in turnovers. Jordan did have a 64% field goal percentage and he enjoyed a career best 68% from the line, which led to a tie in his career high 67 TS%.

Wesley Matthews:

Wesley Matthews improved his efficiency each year in Dallas, starting at 38.8% in his first year, and ending with 41% this year. His effective field goal percentage (where 3s count as 1.5 shots) rose to a respectable 52% last season and this season. However, his shot selection, overdribbling, and loss of athleticism limited his impact on the game. He never was able to become Portland Wesley Matthews in terms of defense due to the Achilles injury he suffered in 2015. The main issue for Matthews was shot selection and decision making. Matthews served as a valuable locker room presence, but ultimately was never able to live up to the contract handed to him in 2015. I would not be surprised to see Wesley Matthews return to Dallas in the future for a smaller role and smaller contract.

Dennis Smith Jr:

Smith is likely going to be the only player traded to New York that will play more than a handful of games for the Knicks. This trade means now the #8 and #9 picks from the 2017 draft are on the same team, which may somewhat put an end to the narrative of Dennis vs Frank. The Mavericks will miss Smith’s athleticism, but the timeline for the Mavericks’ future accelerated when Luka Doncic was selected in the 2018 draft. For Dallas, Dennis Smith’s stats regressed in his second year playing alongside Luka Doncic. On a per minute basis, his scoring was down, albeit with better efficiency, and his assist:turnover ratio went from 1.84 to 1.38, which is a major drop considering 2 is a minimum number to strive for. Smith was inconsistent from game-to-game, and while raw, has a long way to improve as a shooter and a slasher in terms of learning how to use his athleticism as a strength. A change of scenery following a trade request appears to be a positive for Smith. When I wrote about Smith prior to the 2017 draft, I had worried about his fit with Rick Carlisle given his basketball IQ and feel for the game. Both of those ended up being thorns in the side in his time with the Mavericks, which likely ultimately led to the downfall of Dennis Smith’s time in Dallas. Smith will thrive under a confidence-boosting coach in David Fizdale and for a team with no pressure on them this season in the New York Knicks.

Courtney Lee:

My favorite fact about Courtney Lee says it all about what Lee is: he has never finished a contract with the team he originally signed with. Lee has only played 12 games this season, but Lee is best known for being a bench spark plug that finds a way to get points, and generally does so within the offense. Courtney Lee has only once had a season where his offensive rating is lower than 105, which was in 2012-13 with Boston when he recorded a 102 offensive rating. Lee is 33, so don’t expect a ton of usage from him going forward. Lee’s contract expires after the 2019-20 season, so expect him to be a trade chip this summer or next season.

Trey Burke:

Burke is a bit of an enigma for this situation. Burke is a scorer that has taken a step forward in his career, but with the plethora of guards on the Mavs roster, I doubt Burke has a major impact in Dallas. He would fit in a two point guard lineup, and may compliment Jalen Brunson in said two guard lineup as a scorer to Brunson’s playmaking. If Burke plays with Dallas at all, expect him to be strictly a bench spark plug.

Tim Hardaway Jr:

I think Tim Hardaway Jr will be a great addition to the Mavs roster. While he lacks defensive prowess, he is a great offensive option that gets to the line at a great rate and can create well for himself. He will fill Wesley Matthews’ spot in the starting lineup for at least the remainder of this season, and besides defense, there’s a case to be made that Hardaway does everything better offensively than Wesley Matthews. Hardaway had the ball in his hands a lot in New York, but on a team more pressing for wins, it’s easy to believe that his 25% usage rate will decline, which is for the better for the Mavericks. Compared to Matthews, Hardaway gets to the line at double the rate Wesley did, he’s a significant improvement in shot creation and playmaking, and turns the ball over at a much lower rate and gets assists at a higher rate despite have a higher usage rate than Wesley Matthews. While the Mavericks’ wing defense declines with Hardaway, the offensive flow should improve with Hardaway on the floor instead of Matthews.

Kristaps Porzingis:

It’s easy to be skeptical of his ACL injury given his light, lanky frame, but I firmly believe that Porzingis will fully return to form. Porzingis is a dream player for the Mavericks, and has arguably the most unique player archetype in the league- rim protecting shooter. The one area where the Mavericks will see a dropoff in this trade is rebounding, as Porzingis has hovered around 7 rebounds per game for his career. I expect Porzingis’ playmaking to improve given the offensive system in Dallas. Porzingis fits with every player on the Mavericks one way or another and compliments the core players’ skillset. I’m interested to see the split of minutes at power forward versus center for Porzingis.

Overall:

I would give this trade an A-. The Mavericks did unload 3 valuable assets in first round picks and Dennis Smith Jr and also are taking a gamble on Porzingis coming back 100% and staying long term. However, for this season, the Mavs could very well improve simply from addition by subtraction. The player I see helped most immediately by this trade is Harrison Barnes. Playing next to two surefire ball stoppers in DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews amplified his weaknesses and took away his natural skillset. Barnes has been an improved shooter this season, which is in part to excellent screens by Jordan clearing him up on the perimeter. I predict Barnes’ numbers, namely field goal percentage, to improve after the all star break with the new roster.

More drive and kick opportunities and better spacing should open up with less predictable isolations and a better roster fit.

Draft impact:

For me, this part hurts the most. The Mavericks unloaded their 2021 and 2023 first round picks. The Mavericks will largely be zeroing in on second round players for the future, barring trades to move back into the first round. The Mavericks now need a true 5, or at least a big that can rebound at a high level, perimeter defense, and more wing playmaking with size. These are the types of players the Mavs should start focusing on, and will surely be what I start to zero in on. The second round has gained more value over the years. It’s the Mavericks’ turn to start embracing the second round.

 

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