THAT’S NOT WHAT Kristaps Porzingis is expected on his arrival in Dallas.
At the heart of a blockbuster trade, he expected to form one of the NBA’s strongest duos with Luka Doncic, another rising star. Porzingis reckoned it would be a 1A-1B situation.
Doncic certainly kept his end to this deal. At the age of 22, he will soon be a two-time All-NBA selection, averaging 35.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 10.3 assists in the second playoff series of his career.
But that came at a loss when the Dallas Mavericks fell in a seven-game series against the LA Clippers in which one of the most prominent storylines was how little Dallas relied on Porzingis, who battled injury and adapted to a supporting role has the last two seasons. Porzingis averaged 13.1 points and 5.4 rebounds, often used offensively, essentially as a decoy, while Doncic split up a Clippers defense to slow him down.
The Mavericks are obviously Doncic’s franchise. But one of the biggest questions about the future of the Mavs is how Porzingis fits into the picture.
“Good question,” said Porzingis after Game 7 and paused to collect his thoughts. “How do I feel? I mean, I’m fine. I’ve tried to do the job, tried to work hard. I do my part, listen to the coaches ask what I’m asked of and that’s it .
“I try to keep it simple to myself so I don’t think too much and I try to focus on what I can control. This is a better basketball player who goes off-season hungry. I want to be better physically become.” [and] on the basketball court. I’ll put this work in to get better and then the rest will work itself out. “
A superstar of Doncic’s caliber, of course, is putting pressure on a franchise to compete for championships. As a result, every decision the front office in Dallas makes is viewed through the prism of customization to its franchise player.
WHEN THE NEW YORK KINDS made available to Porzingis at the close of trading in 2019, a Mavs team that had just designed Doncic fell for a rush. Confident that Porzingis would be an ideal match, Dallas knew that he would extend the 2015 fourth overall win to a maximum contract that would come with a trade in the summer. Despite the fact that Porzingis didn’t have to play a second for the Mavs – it took him a full season to recover from a cruciate ligament rupture in February 2019 – the deal was closed in the free agency’s first moments.
Porzingi’s health and durability were a concern for the Mavs, particularly a ruptured meniscus in his right knee that ended his 2020 postseason prematurely. He played in just 43 games that regular season, missed the first nine games while recovering from off-season meniscus surgery, and then several more due to pain in that knee.
These injuries – and the resulting reduced mobility – made him a defensive strain, and they are one of the reasons it would be difficult for Dallas to get value for Porzingis in a trade. He is owed $ 101.5 million over the next three seasons, a contract that league executives and scouts consider albatrosses.
If Porzingis isn’t a championship-caliber buddy – and he’s probably not a ticket to one in the trade market – it’s hard to imagine how the Mavs will get a second star anytime soon. The Mavs planned to have the salary cap slot this summer, but the free agency class has declined significantly as several stars signed renewals with their current team. And signing a big money free agent could be at the expense of Tim Hardaway Jr. Considered salary dumping on the Porzingis deal, Hardaway had an inspired postseason in 2021 (averaging 18 points at 45.8% shooting from below) and became a key player for the Mavs.
Then there are questions about the chemistry between Doncic and Porzingis. The Mavs’ franchise cornerstones are admittedly no friends, a distant dynamic that team owner Mark Cuban compares to the early stages of Dirk Nowitzki’s and Jason Terry’s partnership that ultimately spawned two NBA Finals appearances and a championship.
But Porzingis has been frustrated and often felt more like an afterthought than a co-star as Doncic dominates the ball and spotlight, sources told ESPN. During his post-game media availability, Porzingis often made thinly disguised allusions, such as that “the ball actually moved tonight” after high-scoring performances or that he was not involved in the offense on the low-scoring nights .
“It’s just the games we played,” said Porzingis after losing to the last-placed Houston Rockets on April 7 when asked why he got no shots in the fourth quarter, despite being 10-of-19 -Shooting 23 points scored the game. After a pause, he added: “Has happened before.”
A LACK OF The interaction between Doncic and Porzingis on the pitch, who rarely high-five or communicate directly with each other, has become evident. Immediately asked about it on April 8 after beating the Milwaukee Bucks, Porzingis made no attempt to downplay the awkwardness.
“Yes, we’re trying to play together and help each other,” said Porzingis. “We want to win. In the end we all want to win here – and that’s it. We have to keep playing and keep playing together and keep playing well and helping each other.”
It’s a sensitive issue that Mavs trainer Rick Carlisle – who had his own tensions with Doncic, a star who showed his trainer multiple times on the court or bench when he disagreed with decisions – has declined publicly to admit to discuss. Often referred to as “evolving” the dynamic between Doncic and Porzingis, Carlisle points out how well the threat from Porzingis’ perimeter shooting complements Doncic’s ability to create from dribbling.
The Mavs produced some impressive numbers when this duo played together this season. They were 24-16 with an offensive rating of 118.2 when Doncic and Porzingis both played. That included a 20-8 record with an offensive rating of 122.2 after Feb.5, when Dallas began its climb from 14th place in the Western Conference and five games under .500 to fifth. (The downside: Dallas allowed 117.7 points per 100 possessions with Doncic and Porzingis on the floor, which would have been last in the defensive standings.)
According to Second Spectrum Tracking, the Mavericks averaged 1.18 points per possession during the regular season when Porzingis set up a ball screen for Doncic, the league’s most efficient duo, who made at least 300 picks.
That success became irrelevant in the playoffs when the Clippers consistently defended the 7-foot-3 Porzingis with a wing, with the intention of changing every pick-and-roll. They challenged Dallas to feed Porzingi’s post-ups, the Carlisle “not a good game“And” an inferior situation “in response to last season’s criticism.
Porzingis spent the series watching at most of the offensive possessions, standing in the corner or on the wing spreading the floor, and receiving less than half as many touches per game than the regular season. With high stakes Porzingis became a role player with a maximum contract.
“Only here to do whatever it takes to win,” said Porzingis after scoring eight points on six field goal attempts in Game 5 for the Mavs.
After Game 7, Porzingis called it a “mental struggle” to play a role he was not comfortable with. He said he tried to focus his rookie year on playing hard and doing little things to help his team.
“And whatever I do, it always seems to be something,” said Porzingis, confirming the scrutiny. “I just try to be as professional as possible.”