It all started with a pair of Tweets.
Porzingis wants to play for a winner in New York, but is searching for clarity on his future role with the team and Knicks direction. Porzingis -- out with an ACL injury --- can be a restricted free agent this summer. https://t.co/JtZzQ02FCI
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 31, 2019
The Dallas Mavericks had agreed to a blockbuster deal with the New York Knickerbockers that would send DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, Dennis Smith Jr. and two future first-round picks to the Knicks in exchange for Kristaps Porzingis (knee), Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke. Amazing.
That’s a grown man move from Mark Cuban and the Mavs organization, and with their new 23-and-under European duo featuring Godzingis and Dagger Doncic, the future in Dallas is blindly bright. Yes, Porzingis will be a restricted free agent this summer, but he’s reportedly already agreed to sign a qualifying offer with Dallas, so they’ll be able to match anything he receives on the open market (which will be a max offer). Porzingis is still recovering from a torn ACL, and I’m skeptical that we’ll see him take the floor this season, but the odds of him actually getting out there for at least a handful of games dramatically went up with the move to the Mavericks. He’ll also be able to soak up all the knowledge he can from his childhood idol, Dirk Nowitzki, in what could be his final NBA season (although maybe KP can convince him to stick around for another year).
As for the Knicks, well, they could have done worse? They get a talented young point guard in Dennis Smith Jr., a pair of first-round picks (2021 unprotected first-rounder, 2023 protected first-rounder), and they could be looking at roughly $74.6 million in cap space this summer; which will be enough to fill two max roster slots.
On to the fantasy breakdown.
With the departure of Smith Jr., Matthews and Jordan I’d expect the Mavs new starting group to look something like this:
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Brunson got the start on Thursday and hit 4-of-14 shots on his way to nine points, two rebounds, six assists and two turnovers over 33 minutes. I’d expect him to get first dibs at the starting gig while Burke gets acclimated to Rick Carlisle’s system, but with averages of just 10.8 points, 3.0 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 1.0 steal and 1.4 turnovers per game on 46.8% shooting across 10 starts this season, it’s tough to view Brunson as anything more than a low-end guy in deep leagues. As for Burke, with him going from a starter with the Knicks to a reserve role in Dallas where he’ll compete with Devin Harris for minutes, I don’t anticipate him being a player worth owning moving forward.
Kleber, Powell and Mejri could move in and out of the starting lineup based on the matchup, but I’d expect the Mejri appearances to be rare occurrence. Sure, Mejri got the start on Thursday (four points, nine rebounds and two blocks in 19 minutes), but that likely had a ton to do with the matchup (Andre Drummond), and he rode the pine during crunch time. Kleber also was in the starting lineup for Thursday’s game with Luka Doncic (ankle) unavailable, and he finished with four points (1-of-3 FGs, 1-of-2 FTs), eight boards, two assists, one steal and one 3-pointer in 29 minutes; while Dwight Powell posted 10 points (4-of-8 FGs, 1-of-2 FTs), five rebounds, one assist, one 3-pointer, one assist, one steal and two blocks across 24 minutes with the second unit. Both Kleber and Powell are worth adding in standard leagues, with Kleber offering a bit more upside (but more inconsistency) and Powell being a steady low-end guy who won’t really hurt you anywhere. I'd only consider Mejri as a low-end, shot-blocking specialist in deep leagues.
In his nine starts this season, Kleber has come through with averages of 7.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.4 triples, 0.9 steals, 1.9 swats and 1.0 turnover per contest on 42.9% shooting.
Powell has always been a per-minutes monster, and while an imperfect stat, his per-36-minutes numbers this season of 18.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.2 swats per contest give us a glimpse of his upside. No, he won’t be earning anything close to 36 minutes a night, but he only needs playing time in the 20s to make an impact in fantasy hoops. When he was earning 26 minutes a night as a starter last year, Powell was able to produce averages of 11.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.4 swats and 1.0 turnover per game on 61.3% shooting, and I'd expect his numbers to be somewhere in that range.
Luka Doncic should see a boost as he’ll spend more time handling the rock with DSJ no longer around, and while THJ’s usage figures to take a bit of a hit with the Mavs, he should still see plenty of touches and perhaps an uptick in efficiency with the improved talent around him. Harrison Barnes’ role won’t change much with the trade, so he should be fine.
Courtney Lee hasn’t played much at all this season, but he may be more involved in the rotation in Dallas. He’s someone to keep an eye on in deep leagues, but he’s a wait-and-see guy in most settings.
Dennis Smith Jr. has to be one of the biggest winners of this trade in terms of fantasy hoops, as he’ll now be stepping into a feature role as the starting point guard in New York, and his arrival essentially crushes Emmanuel Mudiay’s (shoulder) rest-of-season potential. DSJ was operating with a 22.6 usage rate with the Mavericks this season, but with the move the East coast, I’d expect that number to be closer to what it was his rookie year (27.8). Smith Jr. has his faults, he struggles with turnovers (3.1), isn’t a great free throw shooter (69.5%) and he can have nights where he’ll tank your FG%; but the counting stats can be fun. Also, considering the vast improvement we saw from Mudiay this season while operating in Fizdale’s system, I’m highly intrigued to see what Coach Fiz will be able to do with a point guard like DSJ.
Wesley Matthews (32 years old) and DeAndre Jordan (30 years old) are both on expiring contracts, and they are likely headed towards a buyout considering they just don’t make much sense in New York with David Fizdale fully embracing the youth movement (AKA the pursuit for Zion). Matthews wasn’t worth owning while receiving 29.8 minutes a night with the Mavericks, and his situation only gets worse in New York, so he’s safe to leave on the wire. Once/if Matthews receives a buyout, that’ll open up a ton of opportunity for Allonzo Trier and Damyean Dotson, with Trier offering a bit more upside. I’d say that Trier is worth stashing in most leagues, while Dotson should be monitored in deeper settings.
In his three starts this season, Trier has posted averages of 13.0 points, 2.3 boards, 2.0 assists and 1.3 triples per contest on 35.5% shooting; while Dotson has contributed averages of 10.2 points, 4.6 boards and 1.3 treys on 42.7% shooting in his 10 starts this year.
Given what we’ve seen with Enes Kanter this season, New York is a terrible landing spot for Jordan, and his arrival would be bad news for Noah Vonleh and Mitchell Robinson. Again, I’m expecting a buyout here, so owners will just need to hold on while this all plays out. Jordan should be fine on basically any other team, but if he does somehow stay with the Knicks, he could see inconsistent minutes and there's a decent chance he'd be shutdown down the stretch.