A little less than a year ago, there was a chance—small, as it turned out—that the New Orleans Pelicans would ship away big man Anthony Davis to New York in a package that would be highlighted by Knicks center Kristaps Porzingis.
The Knicks badly wanted to make the deal and Davis had let the Pels know that New York was one of the teams to which he was willing to be traded. So, at least two entities were on board with the deal.
But the Pelicans were not so sure. Because Porzingis could be a restricted free agent after the season, there was a sense that the experience with Davis could just be repeated all over again, with Porzingis deciding he did not want to stay in New Orleans. The Pelicans were not quite sure whether that was Porzingis’ position, but because they could get no such assurance, New Orleans passed on moving forward with discussions.
“That’s what held things up,” a source told Heavy.com. “Dell (Demps) didn’t think they could sign him, the team thought that he’d just put them right back into the same position. But the Knicks were ready to go all in.”
Now, 10 months later, Porzingis and Davis are set to face off after what has been a tumultuous year for both players. Rather than being traded for each other, Porzingis was sent to the Mavericks before the trade deadline for a package that included Dennis Smith Jr. and draft picks. He had butted heads with the Knicks as an organization and, as he was recovering from ACL surgery, New York made the decision to finally move on from him.
Davis, after an exhausting final few months in New Orleans when no trade could be worked out ahead of the deadline, was sent to Los Angeles for a package highlighted by Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and a trove of draft picks.
It was a happy ending for both players.
Brighter Future for Anthony Davis, Kristaps Porzingis
As the Mavericks prepare to host the Lakers, both players have had up-and-down starts. Porzingis is shooting only 42.9 percent from the field, mostly thanks to a poor showing against Denver (4-for-14) in the Mavericks’ last game. But he is averaging 22.2 points, and had 32 points, nine rebounds and five assists on Sunday in a narrow loss against Portland.
Porzingis has proven to be a solid complement to guard Luka Doncic, which was what attracted the Mavericks to him in the first place. With Doncic in his second season averaging 25.0 points after winning last year’s Rookie of the Year award, Dallas is set up with a young pairing around which to build. Doncic is 20 and Porzingis, for all his time in the headlines in New York, is still only 24.
As TNT analyst Reggie Miller said in a conference call, “I put Porzingis and Doncic right up there, especially what I’ve seen during preseason. … I think they have a chance to be great together because both of them, obviously having played international basketball with one another and against one another, they know one another’s similarities. So I think this is going to be a fantastic pairing. To me Porzingis has a chip on his shoulder.”
And Davis has, after some early struggles, gotten back to being the Anthony Davis we did not see enough in New Orleans in his woebegone final season. Playing with LeBron James, that’s all changing. After some early shooting struggles, Davis has scored 69 points in his last two games, wins over Charlotte and Memphis.
With a Lakers roster loaded with frontline talent, Davis has said he has high hopes for this season.
“Yes, I do see myself in the championship this year,” he told fans during a Twitter Q&A. “It’s going to be a lot of work, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of bumps in the road, but I think if we stay together and have the right mindset, I think we’re able to do it.”
That’s a long way from his mindset at this time last year in New Orleans. It’s a long way, too, for Porzingis. They weren’t swapped for each other, but each has landed in a better spot.