This post could take longer than it has to because Kristaps Porziņģis once averaged 22 points for the Knicks. It won’t, though, because that player is no more. What’s left is a shell of a unicorn in search of a situation that will allow him to at least chuck as much as his former self.
Enter the Washington Wizards, a team that’s always, exactly, unfailingly itself — which is an organization never good enough to win 50 games. Well on their way to extending that 42-year streak to 43 years and without their best player Bradley “Beta” Beal for the rest of the season due to season-ending wrist surgery, it’s time to make irresponsible trades.
Like two Latvian ships passing in the night, the Mavericks and Wizards swapped countrymen Thursday as Washington sent Spencer Dinwiddie and Dāvis Bertāns to Dallas for Porziņģis, according to ESPN.
It’s a nice change of scenery for all parties, who are all slightly to vastly overpaid. Dinwiddie is owed $36 million over the next two years, the Mavs will pay Bertāns $49 million across the next three seasons, and Porziņģis is getting a whopping $70 million the last two years of his contract.
The upside is obvious for Dallas, even if the end result will be the same: Luka Dončić does everything, and the team loses in the first (maybe second?) round. They’re third in the league in scoring defense but 24th in scoring, and it gives the Mavericks a player in Dinwiddie who can get his own offense when the ball is in his hands and Dončić is on the bench (and then complain about not having the ball when Dončić is on the court).
Bertāns can make open 3s, and those are the kinds of players Dončić loves. In addition to him being a better shooter than Porziņģis, he’s also happier doing it. It was no secret that Porziņģis became disinterested on the defensive end (and displeased in general) after being asked to play role player for Dončić and jog from the opposing team’s paint to the Dallas 3-point line for a couple seasons.
He had picked up the defense under new coach Jason Kidd, but couldn’t stay healthy, missing more than a third of the games played so far with an array of ailments. He’s actually injured right now. My guess is the Mavs know they can play defense without Porziņģis, so why not see if they can play defense without a fifth man, because Bertāns is basically a training cone.
Whenever Washington does get its Latvian back, there’s no one on the roster with the name recognition, or the unsatiated ego, to keep the ’Zinger from getting the touches he so desperately desires. Maybe he resurrects his career — or at least boosts his trade value enough to get assets in return.
The one thing it guarantees is people will have a really tall guy to point at and say, “That’s our best player” when they intermittently wander into Capital One Arena to watch the Wiz play the rest of this season. Whether they say it without sarcasm is up to them. Whether Porziņģis is in street clothes when they point at him is up to the basketball gods.
Also, when Beal gets back next year he’ll be able to return to his natural state of deferment (assuming both he and Porziņģis are still on the team). Even in the wildest dreams of the most optimistic Wizards fan, they’re still not winning 50-plus games, though.
We’ll see how the novelty lasts for each of these fan bases, but there’s something to be said for learning to hate again.