#FreePorzingis

Question — which of the following colorful personality is best described by this Michael Caine line from The Dark Knight:

“Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

  • A) Heath Ledger’s The Joker
  • B) NY Knicks President Phil Jackson
  • C) Philippine Senator Antonio Trillanes
  • D) It’s definitely Phil Jackson even though Alfred was actually referring to the Joker. But while we’re at it, let’s toss in Trillanes for the fun of it.

You guess it.

Just when the Knicks have suffered enough as an NBA franchise, Phil began to shop the Knicks’ only bright spot and the NBA Unicorn around the league.

It’s actually happening. After a turbulent season headlined by the Carmelo Anthony drama of will they — won’t they trade him, Porzingis chose to skip the team exit interviews and went straight home to Latvia. CBS Sports also reports that the lack of team direction has taken its toll on the him, with the Knicks missing the Playoffs for the fourth straight year.

New York enters the preseason with only Kristaps and the 8th pick for the 2017 draft to work with in the hopes of improving the roster. Joakim Noah will miss 12 games to start the next season due to a PED ban, Anthony’s age, injury history, and the non-support from ownership has caused his trade value to go waaaaaaaaay down, DRose’s is done, and no one’s calling to make offers on Kuzminskas, Hernangomez, and any player whose last name sound as if they were generated in NBA 2K.

Phil has already confirmed in an interview with MSG Network that the team is fielding offers for Porzingis, where it appears that the price tag for his services is extremely high:

“We’re getting calls. As much as we value Kristaps and what he’s done for us, when a guy doesn’t show up for an exit meeting, everybody starts speculating on the duration or ‘movability’ from a club.”

“So we’ve been getting calls and we’re listening, but we’re not intrigued yet at this level. But as much as we love this guy, we have to do what’s good for our club.”

At 21 years old and 3 years left on a contract that pays him $5.9M annually (in a league where Chandler Parsons gets paid $24.1M), Kristaps is as valuable as they can get! Not to mention that in the current space and pace era of the NBA, Porzingis is the player we would build from scratch. A stretch four that can put the ball on the floor while can also defend the pick-and-roll? Only Giannis, KD, AD, Embiid and KAT can do that!

Stephen A. Smith, I feel you. But don’t worry, Phil Jackson actually knows what he’s doing! (I like to think that he knows what he’s doing)

The direction of the team is… perplexing/baffling/confusing/non-existent. They want to rebuild but can’t do so with Carmelo refusing a move through his no-trade clause. They want to clear cap space but strapped themselves with Noah’s contract that pays him $19M until 2020. The Knicks are stuck with a dysfunctional locker room, led by an aging star while being coached by someone who can’t even implement his own system, and all under the watchful eye of Phil Jackson. Even free agents are turning a blind eye from joining New York due to the perplexing/baffling/confusing/non-existent direction of the team.

Realistically, they can reset the franchise in 2019 when Melo’s contract comes off the books (after exercising his option that would pay him $28M). Porzingis can still be a Knick by then but it’s almost certain that the Knicks will miss the playoffs next season and the season after that, pushing their playoff drought to 6 years. Would he be willing to wait until 2019 for a player that may never come in the free agency? By then, Porzingis would only have a year left on his contract and the Knicks lose all the leverage they can get if they trade him in 2020.

Then there’s the health issue. Take a look at the injury history of Porzingis, who just finished his second year in the league:

In total, Kristaps has missed 27 of the possible 164 games. Doesn’t really tell the whole picture just yet, right? But we’ve witnessed in the past that big men above 7 feet ended up having a short pro lifespan due to the stress of playing basketball for a living. Yao Ming had to retire in 2011 after foot and ankle injuries slowed him down, and he wasn’t even close to being as athletic as Porzingis. Just imagine the stress on the body of a 7’3″ running the floor while dunking on people from out of nowhere. That’s Kristaps. It’d be crazy to think that his huge body frame could sustain the athletic ability that he has for a long time.

Now, let’s take a look at another bright spot for the Knicks that didn’t miss the exit interview — the 8th pick.

For months, writers and scouts have labeled the 2017 NBA Draft as one of the deepest classes in recent memory. From point guards to wing players, it’s a pool full of young talent ready to contribute. It’s going to be so good that even New York can pick someone that would help the team in an instant. EVEN THE KINGS CAN’T SCREW THIS UP with their 5th and 10th picks.

Here’s my mock draft for the top 10 prospects:

  1. Markelle Fultz — Philadelphia (Fultz-Simmons-Embiid? Sam Hinkie for president!)
  2. Lonzo Ball — Lakers (Lavar Ball in LA just makes perfect sense)
  3. Jayson Tatum — Boston (the draft’s best iso scorer)
  4. Josh Jackson — Phoenix (Booker and Jackson on the fastbreak? Lord have mercy)
  5. De’Aaron Fox — Sacramento (Backcourt of Hield and Fox? Sactown is back!)
  6. Malik Monk — Orlando (ultimate scorer/heat-check guy/Hezonja replacement)
  7. Jonathan Isaac — Minnesota (3-and-D who finally solves the Wolves’ wing problem)
  8. Lauri Markkanen — New York (a stretch four who plays like KRISTAPS PORZINGIS?)
  9. Dennis Smith, Jr. — Dallas (on any draft, he’s a top-five prospect)
  10. Frank Ntilikina — Sacramento (trust in the Kings to draft a point guard right after drafting a point guard)

The Knicks reportedly have Arizona’s Markkanen high on their draft boards even though they already have an improved version of Markkanen on the team!

New York also loves Josh Jackson, but given their current spot in the draft, it’s impossible to grab him. This is why the team could possibly trade up in the draft through a package revolving Porzingis; one report has the Knicks offering Kristaps to Phoenix for Devin Booker and the 4th pick before the Suns slammed the phone to end the conversation. (It would make more sense if the Knicks packaged the 8th pick with Porzingis if they want Booker and the 4th so bad, but even that is a tough sell)

The Celtics can join the Porzingis party by dangling a trade package around the 3rd pick in front of Phil Jackson:

The Celtics won’t need Josh Jackson when they still have Jaylen Brown, and they might not need Jayson Tatum when they see Hayward coming in. Danny Ainge would finally cash in on his draft picks for a young star and Boston can finally rejoice! Jae Crowder gives the Knicks a vet in a bargain contract ($7M annually until 2020), a future pick that Boston originally acquired from Philly in the Fultz trade, and the number 3 pick for Jackson. Plus they get to keep the 8th pick!

A Jackson — Markkanen tandem could be the start of the Knicks’ rebuilding plans as they wait for Melo and Noah to ride out into the sunset. Sure, it’s a long process and no team ever wants to rebuild. But Philadelphia now has a Fultz-Simmons-Embiid trio, the Lakers could have a Ball-George-Ingram lineup soon, and even the Magic have a… well, they’re still rebuilding.

But maybe, just maybe, the Porzingis trade would prove that Phil Jackson was right all along.

– David Gamboa

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