The Knicks reportedly have received calls on the availability of Kristaps Porzingis, and haven’t ruled out moving the player many view as the future face of the franchise.
Yahoo! Sports reported that there has been “a frenzy of interest” in Porzingis with Thursday’s NBA Draft looming. ESPN.com reported the same.
The Knicks have the eighth pick and all along have been targeting a guard with that selection. But a source confirmed that team president Phil Jackson met with 7-foot shooter Lauri Markkanen on Monday. The Knicks could consider taking Markkanen as a replacement for Porzingis if they were to move him.
The Celtics reportedly have interest in Porzingis, and own the No. 3 pick. If the Knicks acquired that, they could be in position to draft Kansas forward Josh Jackson or Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox.
The Knicks would not comment on any of the reports involving Porzingis.
A unique offensive talent at 7-3, Porzingis had been considered the player the Knicks would build around. But his standing with the team has changed since he skipped his end-of-season meeting.
Frustrated with the direction of the franchise and the drama surrounding the team, Porzingis blew off the exit interview with Jackson, general manager Steve Mills and coach Jeff Hornacek.
At his end-of-season news conference, Jackson wouldn’t say Porzingis was untouchable.
“Everything has got to be possible and we have to make sure that if people have something to say we listen to it,” Jackson said. “We examine it.”
Jackson also said he didn’t think Porzingis was ready to become the focal point of the offense if Carmelo Anthony didn’t return. Jackson has made it clear that the he would like to trade Anthony. But the perennial All-Star has a no-trade clause so he has to approve any trade.
The Knicks president has been criticized for how he treated Anthony this past season, which was well documented and noted by players throughout the league. The situation with Porzingis surely will raise some eyebrows as well for how Jackson handles his marquee players.
Yet his brother Janis Porzingis told ESPN.com that Kristaps wants to remain with the Knicks.
“Despite how the Knicks are treating their players, Kris wants to stay in New York,” said Janis Porzingis, who works as an agent for Andy Miller’s company. “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.”
Even if the Knicks hold on to Porzingis, the two sides will need to repair their relationship. Porzingis hasn’t had any contact with any Knicks officials, according to a source. The Knicks have reached out to Janis, but not Kristaps, the source said.
The Knicks selected Porzingis with the No. 4 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. It has been considered Jackson’s best move since becoming team president.
Porzingis has averaged 16.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in his two seasons with the Knicks. He’s only 21 years old and has diverse skills. He’s considered a player who could blossom into an All-Star. But he’s had trouble staying healthy. Porzingis has missed a total of 26 games in two seasons.
Markkanen is a skilled 7-footer who can open the floor with his shooting. He shot 42.3 percent on three-pointers in his one season at Arizona and should be a “stretch four” on the next level.
If the Knicks don’t make any deals, and keep the No. 8 pick, Kentucky guard Malik Monk, Frank Ntilikina from France and North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith Jr. could be options for them.
Jackson, however, has made big trades the day before the draft twice in the last three years. He sent Tyson Chandler to Dallas in 2014 and acquired Derrick Rose last year.