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Porzingis injury fallout
It turns out that even Unicorn’s can tear their ACL’s. In perhaps the saddest news to come down the NBA pipeline, the league will be without Kristaps Porzingis for the remainder of the season as the center went down in an absolute heap against the Milwaukee Bucks. It’s the latest in an annoyingly typical run of injured superstars across the league.

This isn’t the signal of some type of injury apocalypse but it’s hard not to think of it this way. The year literally started with the worst type of “bang” possible as everyone saw and heard Gordon Hawyard’s ankle explode. Boogie Cousins ruptured his Achilles, Kawhi Leonard has routinely battled his quad injury and Mike Conley never got right this entire season.

With Porzingis down to an ACL injury, league owners as a whole are going to be paying over $200 million in salary to injury players across the league…for knee injuries alone. They already crested the $100 million mark a week ago, again just for knee injuries.

This isn’t a riot act on guaranteed contracts at all. It just goes to show you that anything can happen in the blink of an eye. New York always relied on Kristaps to supply the majority of their offence and defence. The crowd at Madison Square Garden adores him.

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His sudden, season ender is going to trigger a fire sale in New York. Long term, the Knicks are really only committed to Tim Hardaway Jr. and rookie Frank Ntilikina. The team is frantically looking for trade partners regarding Courtney Lee, Enes Kanter and others. They’ve apparently shipped Willy Hernangomez to Charlotte in exchange for Johnny O’Bryant and two second rounders. Excuse me if I’m not too excited about all of this.

Knicks Schedule: at Toronto (2/8), at Indiana (2/11), at Philadelphia (2/12), vs Washington (2/14), at Orlando (2/22)

The Knicks have long lacked an eye for talent, and that’s a problem wrought by the Phil Jackson era. It’s not getting any better under Scott Perry, though it’s not entirely fair to skewer him since he’s only been on the job a few months. Where the Knicks will have to get lucky is in the NBA draft, where they are currently slotted in at 12th and will likely plummet in to the top-10 with relative ease.

From there it’s all a roll of the dice. That’s how the draft typically works outside of the top-3 selections.

But where the Porzingis injury has a more interesting fallout is in how it impacts the division. Nobody in their right mind ever thought that the New York Knicks were going to contest for the Atlantic division, but this injury and subsequent fire sale has even bigger implications for the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics, who will be able to further pad their wins late in the season as they battle for that coveted first-seed in the playoffs.

Probably the most impactful collateral damage is to the Brooklyn Nets, who already traded their first rounder this year to the Boston Celtics who then shipped it to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Despite the fact that Cleveland is in an apparent tailspin, reports of them missing the playoffs are ridiculous. They’re not only going to make the playoffs, they remain a viable playoff threat as long as LeBron James is on the court.

However, that Brooklyn Nets pick is going to get worse and worse which significantly impacts the type of player that Cleveland can get in return through a trade as the deadline approaches. The Nets are in the Atlantic Division as well and can now feast on the gutted Knicks just like everyone else will. What do they have to lose? They are improving every week and don’t have a first round pick. Game on for Brooklyn.

As it stands, that Nets pick owned by the Cavaliers has seemingly absurd value to the franchise and opposing teams. If that pick falls somewhere between 9-14, which is very likely at this point, what does it really benefit Cleveland? Shouldn’t they try to convince LeBron that they’re going to do whatever it takes to build a championship contender by using that pick to get whomever they can?

Besides, as I’ve said before, the Cavaliers don’t have anything that anyone really wants outside of the potential that the Nets pick represents. Love is hurt, Wade is over the hill (and not going anywhere) and their own first round picks are needed in the event that James bolts for a new franchise this summer.

All of this is bad news for Cleveland, and great news for the hard charging contenders in the Atlantic Division. It makes an already intriguing NBA trade deadline even more fascinating.

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