Kristaps Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

On the day of the 2020 trade deadline, we try and suss out when the New York Knicks emerged as the clear winners of a trade.

Danny Small

When was the last time the New York Knicks made a trade that made the other team(s) involved look silly? That’s a tough question because the answer is subjective. Not to mention, it’s difficult to assign clear “winners” and “losers” until a few years down the line.

Let’s backtrack through recent trades until there’s a no-doubt win on the Knicks’ resumé.

Kristaps Porzingis blockbuster

No. Don’t do it. Don’t try to pretend the Knicks won this trade. Although there will always be injury concerns, Kristaps Porzingis is rounding into form in his first season back from his devastating ACL injury.

Moreover, Tim Hardaway Jr. is becoming a reliable third option for Porzingis and Luka Doncic. He’s shooting a career-high 39.5% from three in Dallas on 6.8 attempts per game and playing a huge role in the Mavericks’ playoff surge. Courtney Lee is a non-factor, but the play of Porzingis and Hardaway far outweighs Lee’s diminished role.

There were three components to this deal for the Knicks: cap space, picks, and Dennis Smith Jr.

The team punted on cap space to sign a slew of veterans on short-term contracts after whiffing on marquee free agents. The Mavs are set to be a perennial contender, devaluing the pair of first-round picks the Knicks received. And last but not least, Smith is a shell of what he once was and could be on his way out of town before playing a full season in the orange and blue.

Sure, there are still questions about Porzingis’ long-term health and whether or not he can win a championship as second fiddle to Doncic, but there is no debating who “won” this trade. The Mavericks made out like bandits.

Emmanuel Mudiay reclamation project

Again, this ain’t it. The Knicks brought in Emmanuel Mudiay with high hopes for the former lottery pick. “Reclamation projects” are common around the NBA.Teams feel like they can buy low on talented players who haven’t worked out in their first destination.

Former head coach David Fizdale famously proclaimed that they would get Mudiay “right” in his introductory press conference. Mudiay played one full season in New York in which the Knicks finished with the worst record in the league and tied for a franchise-worst 17 wins in a season. In other words, things didn’t go as planned.

Well, what did the Knicks give up for Mudiay? In a three-team deal involving the Knicks, Mavericks, and Denver Nuggets, New York sent Doug McDermott—another reclamation project of sorts—and a pick swap in exchange for Mudiay.

The Creighton product shot 38.7% from three-point range in 55 games with the Knicks. He’s shooting a ridiculous 43.8% from downtown since leaving New York and is third in the league (44.9%) with the Indiana Pacers this season.

For reference, New York is 28th in three-point percentage (33.6%) this season, but it’s actually a slight decline from their 2018-19 campaign in which they shot 34.0%. In essence, the Knicks traded away one of the league’s most efficient three-point shooters for 81 games from a backup point guard.

Carmelo Anthony divorce

We have to go all the way back to 2017 to find the last definitive “win” for the Knicks. This was the deal to send Carmelo Anthony to the Oklahoma City Thunder for McDermott, Enes Kanter, and a second-round pick.

That doesn’t sound like much, huh? McDermott’s tenure with the Knicks is already established and Enes Kanter was busy wearing out his welcome in New York this time last year. That leaves the second-round pick, which is hit-or-miss when it comes to finding a rotation player.

That pick turned out to be a bullseye. Mitchell Robinson was a McDonald’s All-American and a lottery-level talent, but he fell to the second round after leaving Western Kentucky University and taking the year off to prepare for the draft. The Knicks took a chance on the 7-footer and he’s one of the most exciting young centers in the NBA.

Among players with at least one possession as a roll man in the pick-and-roll, Robinson is No. 1 in the league in points per possession (1.64), per NBA.com. In other words, the Louisiana native is the most efficient roll man in the league who also happens to be shooting 72.2% from the field.

There are still a few areas of his game that need polishing—namely staying out of foul trouble—but he has all the tools and instincts to become a dominant rim protector.

When he reaches his full potential, “diamond in the rough” might be an understatement. At the very least, Robinson will be a competent, rim-running big man which is a solid return for Melo. All things considered, it’s a win.

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