With Anthony Davis staying put in New Orleans, the biggest name from the NBA trade deadline may have been Latvian superstar Kristaps Porzingis. In a nearly unprecedented move, the New York Knicks decided to trade the 2018 All-Star before the end of his rookie contract to the Dallas Mavericks for Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, DeAndre Jordan and two future first-round picks.
While the move raises a lot of questions surrounding the Knick’s future cap space and Kristaps’ health, the most interesting aspect of this trade has to be the tantalizing potential of a Luka Doncic/Kristaps Porzingis one-two punch. While there are still questions about their fit together, the Mavericks have good reason to be excited about bringing together two of the most versatile and promising young (European) superstars in the league.
Porzingis was selected as an All-Star in the 2017-18 season, averaging 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, while shooting 39.5 percent from three. Luka Doncic is having a rookie season for the ages, and despite being only 19 years old, is currently the favorite to win rookie of the year. While we may have to wait until next season to see Porzingis in action, the duo certainly has the potential to be one of the most exciting pair of players in the league, certainly one of the most exciting pairs of international players.
A 7-foot-3 unicorn and a 6-foot-7 point guard, respectively, Porzingis and Doncic are great examples of the changing style of the modern NBA, and the rising significance of international players in this new game. Some have already begun hailing them as one of the best international duos of all time.
Despite it being early in their careers, we decided to see just how well they do stack up against some of the other great European pairs in history. We looked back at the last 35 years of international players in the NBA to try to project just what we can expect from this duo. Looking just at European teammates, we ranked these pairs by win shares, or an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player. The total WS for Kristaps and Luka is based on extrapolating their win shares/game to a full 82-game season (given that Luka has yet to complete a full season, and Kristaps’ last season was cut short by injury).
Top Euro Pairs in the Lottery Era (Win Shares)
|1||Dirk Nowitzki + Shawn Bradley||2002-03||DAL||23.5|
|2||Peja Stojakovic + Vlade Divac||2000-01||SAC||17.5|
|3||Mehmet Okur + Andrei Kirilenko||2005-06||UTA||17.2|
|4||Dirk Nowitzki + Jose Calderon||2013-14||DAL||17.2|
|5||Nikola Jokic + Danilo Gallinari||2016-17||DEN||16.5|
|6||Pau Gasol + Nikola Mirotic||2014-15||CHI||16.1|
|7||Detlef Schrempf + Rik Smits||1989-90||IND||14.7|
|8||Andrei Kirilenko + Mehmet Okur||2007-08||UTA||13.8|
|9||Jonas Valanciunas + Jakob Poeltl||2017-18||TOR||13.2|
|10||Dirk Nowitzki + Zaza Pachulia||2015-16||DAL||12.8|
|11||Marco Belinelli + Tony Parker||2013-14||SAS||11.8|
|12||Luka Doncic + Kristaps Porzingis*||DAL||11.5*|
While the pair still has quite a ways to go before matching the win share totals put up by Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki, who has put up three of the winningest seasons with three different sets of teammates on this list, Luka and Kristpaps’ 12th-place finish on this all-time list alongside Hall-of-Famers like Pau Gasol, Tony Parker and Vlade Divac is certainly a promising sign for Luka’s rookie season.
Looking back at the past 35 years, it was also surprising to see just how many great European players have impacted the NBA. While I certainly expect Porzingis and Doncic to be competing for the top spot on this list over the next few seasons, the strength of their competition may only be trending upwards as the game grows more internationally: six of the top 11 seasons for European duos have occured in in the past five seasons.
So while it is perhaps a bit early to be labeling Doncic and Porzingis the greatest international duo of all time, their future and the future of European basketball players in the NBA does look incredibly bright.
Fri Lavey is a writer and consultant who studied economics and statistics at Harvard University. He has previously worked as a data analyst for the NBA, the MLB, and the Philadelphia 76ers.