Mac Engel

Landing Porzingis is the Mavs’ cure for the future

A few hours before the NBA Draft, Mavericks owner/CNN pundit Mark Cuban will take a sledgehammer to start the process of rebuilding his team’s locker room; please, Lord, let this ceremonial swing of destruction not be a foreshadow to his latest off-season venture.

As the NBA draft is here and NBA free agency looms, we know that Cuban’s plan to maintain his toy as title contenders was a series of miscalculated swings that had a jackhammer effect on the Mavericks.

The good news, despite the best efforts of our wunderkind basketball savant owner, is that not even our Mavericks have botched building an NBA team more than the New York Knicks.

Whatever criticisms we have reserved for the Mavericks and their rebuilding of a championship roster around Dirk Nowitzki, no NBA team has been quite as magically inept as the Knicks.

So before the NBA draft begins, the best hope for the Mavericks is for team president Phil Jackson to do his thing with the Knicks, and actually deal The Lithe Latvian, which reportedly has been discussed.

Only the Knicks would seriously contemplate trading Kristaps Porzingis, who is closer to Dirk Nowitzki than the NBA has seen since he arrived in 1998.

With my dream of drafting UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball all but dead — he and his daddy are going to be selected by the LA Lakers with the second overall pick — landing Porzingis would erase all of the air balls this franchise has tossed made since winning the title.

Do the Mavericks’ have enough to acquire Porzingis from the perpetually-rebuilding Knicks?

It will require dealing the ninth overall pick, guard Wesley Matthews (go ahead), and at least an additional first-rounder. Every other Maverick should be available, including Dirk, Cuban and picking up that terrible contract of Knicks forward Joakim Noah, too.

Porzingis is 7-foot-3 and can play. He doesn’t have Dirk’s outside shot, but ... who does?

When Phil Jackson made Porzingis the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft, the selection was roundly ripped. The fear was he was too skinny, and too European, to help the Knicks anytime soon, if at all.

Similar knocks were said when the Mavericks acquired Dirk from the Milwaukee Bucks in a draft-deal deal in 1998.

They were all idiots.

Last season, Porzingis averaged 18.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. And he’s 21.

Porzingis reportedly is unhappy with the Knicks ... because most players who care usually feel this way. According to one report the team has not talked to him since the season ended.

Only the Knicks could alienate a guy like Porzingis, and now they are reportedly willing to listen to offers to trade him. It’s as if Isiah Thomas never left the Knicks’ front office.

Porzingis’ brother, Janis, issued a press release to ESPN in response to the reports the Knicks might trade deal Kristaps.

“Despite how the Knicks are treating their players, Kris wants to stay in New York,” Janis Porzingis said. “He loves the city and he loves the fans and he wants to win with this team. If he’s going to be traded, he’s going to play out his contract and decide his future on his own.”

Translation: If the Knicks are dumb enough to deal my brother, he will go to the next team where he will become a free agent, most likely in 2019; then he will decide before signing a long-term deal.

If it were any another franchise other than the Knicks, trading Porzingis would be preposterous.

This would be the type of move that would immediately make the Mavericks’ relevant, and nearly erase the myriad full-court shots this team takes and seldom makes in free agency.

The closest thing to a hit this team has made since Cuban’s brain-dead free agent plan was created after the 2011 lockout is Harrison Barnes, whom the Golden State Warriors decided they didn’t need to win another title. Barnes wasn’t a full-court shot, but more like a mid-range jumper.

In order the Mavericks have targeted Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Wes Matthews, Chandler Parsons, Hassan Whiteside and Barnes in free agency since 2012.

Williams said no, was a bust with the Nets and eventually came back to his hometown team. By then he was no longer the player the Mavericks wanted.

Howard opted for the Rockets over the Mavericks; then the Hawks over the Mavericks; Atlanta liked D12 so much they just traded him to Charlotte.

Parsons wisely befriended Cuban, signed for too much money with the Mavericks, and then over-promised that he and his agent could deliver top free agents, like Jordan. Parsons had trouble staying healthy, never did help sign a free agent, and left pouting because his BFF Cuban would not over-pay again whereas Memphis did.

Jordan famously said yes, but then decided to remain with the Clippers, who are now reportedly shopping him to the Suns.

Matthews? Hooray! He said yes, and thus far he’s been what he was in Portland — decent.

Whiteside was never coming to the Mavericks.

All of these misses crippled what had been one of the best franchises in the NBA for the first 15 years of this century, and left Dirk without competent friends at the end of his career.

It has led the Mavericks to the ninth overall pick in the draft on Thursday night, and a franchise that is reluctantly accepting the only way it will be good again is through the draft.

It’s a sound plan, unless the Knicks are just that dumb and are serious about dealing Porzingis.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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