After a week of “will he/won’t he” speculation over the playing status of Kristaps Porzingis and his right knee soreness, the Mavericks finally gave the eager public some answers on Friday afternoon.
The Dallas Mavericks issued the following statement today regarding Kristaps Porzingis. pic.twitter.com/YFNGgWf8dH
— Mavs PR (@MavsPR) August 28, 2020
So a meniscus tear and officially ruling him out for the remainder of their first round series against the Clippers. Suffered all the way back in game one of the series, no less. It’s something much easier to wrap our minds around than just “soreness” that has had the team and general fandom searching for answers.
This certainly isn’t GOOD news, so to speak. It seemingly seals the end of the season for the Mavericks as they’re unlikely to win two games in a row against the Clippers, let alone one. It is, however, a relief to know what exactly we’re dealing with here and knowing that it isn’t an equivalent of a second ACL tear or something for the Unicorn.
Again, this is still a concerning injury. A 7’3 25-year-old that now has a torn ACL on one of his knees and then a meniscus tear on the other. He’s also just about to finish the first year of a five-year/$158 million contract he signed last summer. Here’s how the remainder of his contract plays out:
|$29.5 mil||$31.7 mil||$33.8 mil||$36 mil (player option)|
Those are huge salaries, no doubt. Each of those seasons sees Porzingis make more money than the Mavericks ever paid legend Dirk Nowitzki in a single season. While the average Twitter user would cry blasphemy over that fact, rightfully so, it’s simply not a fair comparison considering the salary cap was only $53.1 million in Dirk’s MVP season of 2006-2007 and had ballooned up to $109 million this season. Obvious fact alert: The league creates more revenue than ever, so players get paid way more than ever.
With the pandemic putting a ton of fog over the league’s financial situation (the salary cap) in the near future, it’s perfectly fair to be concerned with a potentially injury-prone player taking up roughly 30% of the team’s cap over the next four seasons. However, it’s also worth looking at how insanely awesome Porzingis is when he IS healthy.
After the All-Star break this season, he averaged 26 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 36% from deep. Of course he was named to the All-Bubble second team by averaging over 30 points per game over the course of the Mavericks eight seeding games in Orlando. Then in his first foray into the NBA playoffs this month, he averaged 24 points and 9 rebounds with shooting splits of 53%/53%/87% over the first three games of the Clippers series. It’s worth noting he was ejected early in the second half of game one and it has now been revealed he played games two and three with the meniscus tear that has likely ended his season.
The dude can flat out ball out. The potential of a Porzingis/Doncic duo remains even higher than the sky.
The problem? Having a team built solely around Doncic and Porzingis just might not be enough to make the playoffs in the West going forward.
The mighty West is as deep as ever, and if Kristaps Porzingis is limited to 60 games or so a season due to injuries or just a maintenance plan for his large frame and Luka Doncic continues to occasionally miss games due to lingering injuries that pile up like they have his first two seasons, the Mavericks are going to struggle to put a winning team out on the court unless they make some major additions in the coming years.
Sunday’s win over the Clippers to tie the series 2-2 (without Porzingis) was certainly one of the most incredible Mavericks games in franchise history, but Tuesday’s reality check where Los Angeles cold-cocked Dallas 154-111 should also be the reminder that a superstar like Doncic can’t win by himself in today’s ultra-talented NBA.
While I’ve been kind of skeptical of the Mavericks’ NEED to add a third star next to Doncic and Porzingis, I think the injury concerns around both, but especially the latter, make it very clear a third very durable player is needed to be there on the nights throughout the year where one/both of Dallas’ dynamic duo isn’t available.
Who is that third guy? I can’t even pretend to know like I act who the right guy is. I do think it’s very important that it is the RIGHT guy, not just whatever big name becomes available next. I don’t think a Kemba Walker-type like we drooled over last summer would have been the right fit considering the amount of time that Luka Doncic has the ball in his hands, but maybe an elite 3-and-D guy LIKE Khris Middleton, not saying exactly him, would be an ideal fit. Obviously the way the Mavericks roster was built this season was pretty good to maximize the skills of Doncic and Porzingis considering they had the highest offensive rating in NBA history. So the idea of spot-up shooters like Tim Hardaway Jr. or Seth Curry waiting for Doncic’s great passes coming out of a pick-and-roll/pop with Porzingis or Dwight Powell is the right idea. What if there were just better versions of those guys waiting in the corner for an open look at a three?
These are all questions to be answered down the line, but my main feeling after learning the Porzingis news today wasn’t to blow up the future of this team just because they signed him to a long-term deal last July. Yes, it is concerning that he has an injury history and likely a future of difficult ailments to deal with considering his unique size and frame. If you want to cry about the end of the Mavericks world, there are certainly people willing to do that with you on Twitter, you just won’t find it here.
While we likely won’t see Kristaps in a Mavs uniform before the start of the 2020-2021 season, it’s still important to know he’s a badass player who Mavs fans should be excited to have on their team going forward.
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