Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban heard comparisons between the face of his franchise, Dirk Nowitzki, and New York Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis leading up to and after the Mavs' 104-97 victory at Madison Square Garden on Monday.
Cuban spoke afterward about how he would have traded for the 20-year-old Latvian, who's taken the NBA by storm this season, if it were feasible, per CBSSports.com's Ken Berger: "It's funny because everywhere I went [after the draft] and dealt with New York basketball fans, they were like, 'Oh, man.' And I was like, 'No, you don't understand.' We would've traded up in a heartbeat to get that kid. We loved him."
The Knicks drafted Porzingis No. 4 overall, which was a bit out of Dallas' range with the 21st selection, where it chose Virginia product Justin Anderson.
Per Berger, Nowitzki was complimentary of Porzingis, saying, "When I was 20, I was scared to death out there and had a brutal first year. He's averaging almost a double-double. He's way better than I was at 20, so the comparison's probably unfair to him."
Had Cuban's fantasy materialized, the Mavs may have had to trade Nowitzki to move up that far in the draft. Odds are a rebuilding New York squad wouldn't have even taken the 37-year-old at this stage of his career.
It would have been fascinating to see a mega-talent like Porzingis paired with an outspoken owner in Cuban to carry the Mavs into the eventual post-Nowitzki era.
Thankfully for Knicks fans, the Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers all passed on Porzingis, allowing New York to acquire the international stud. He scored 28 points against Dallas on 13-of-18 shooting from the field, while Nowitzki paced the Mavs' winning effort with 25 points of his own.
Matt Moore of CBSSports.com alluded to how Porzingis has lived up to his billing and then some:
Porzingis seems to improve with every game, exceeding expectations and silencing those who felt he was a project or a bust waiting to happen. A huge wingspan (7'6"), uncommon shooting range and touch to go with a high motor have allowed Porzingis to make an immediate impact in 2015-16.
If this is indeed the mere beginning of Porzingis scratching the surface of his potential, he has the makings of a legitimate superstar. He is averaging 14.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per contest—and figures to improve those numbers before season's end.
Knicks President Phil Jackson took serious heat as the team struggled last season when he took over, but does he ever appear to have nailed the calculated Porzingis risk. The single draft pick may already be enough to make Jackson's tenure a raging success if Porzingis continues on his current trajectory.