Kristaps Porzingis: Year Two


Kristaps Porzingis exceeded expectations for many basketball fans around the world this rookie season. Although his numbers didn’t guarantee him a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the New York Knicks have much more to expect from their power forward in the 2016-17 season.

His averages back then were 14.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and roughly two blocks a game.

Although he didn’t win Rookie of the Year, (see Karl Anthony Town stupendous numbers) he did come in second in votes. His 7-foot-3 frame is a bit misleading; however, he did show flashes. His first season consisted of shooting threes, blocking shots, posting-up and his most notable skill set: putback dunks. If you asked Kevin Durant, “that’s like a unicorn in this league.”

No great ever exemplifies all the tricks in their bag their rookie season, simply because she/he isn’t aware of them yet. LeBron James wasn’t an excellent post-player his first  year either. Karl Malone shot under fifty percent his rookie season and heck, before Kobe was Kobe, his rookie season was daunted by his four air balls in the clutch against the Utah Jazz in the playoffs.

So what does this mean for Porzingis? Accolades aren’t everything and rookie numbers are impressive, but not glorified. It all comes down to the grit and grind. A big percentage comes from team management and how they put a team together, but it also depends on how an athlete spends their summer. From what has been shown on various social media sites and sports pages, Porzingis doesn’t play when it comes to the offseason.

For starters, when put in a “pick and roll” situation where the centers are mismatched, guarding a player half their size, it’s almost certain they will be put in a blender. Now just imagine if a person that’s almost seven and half feet tall doing the same moves a point guard with great ball handling would do. Well imagine no more, because that’s what Porzingis has been working on. There was footage of the power player doing his best Allen Iverson impression, imitating perfectly his patented crossover.  With one hesitation dribble and two steps to the right, he glided from near the baseline to just before the free throw line.  Now that is something you do not see from a big, let alone a big his size. The 21-year old has also been pictured lifting and adding weight, something he had hoped to improve.

What’s even more eye popping than Porzingis’s performance and improvement is the people he has around him this season.

Of course, when you have Carmelo Anthony on your side, you would not be wrong in assuming he can carry the team for you; however, last season Porzingis also found a 34-year old point guard in Jose Calderon running the floor. This year, he has younger point guards in Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings, players who are well known for their highlights and their ability to run the floor at a fast pace. But let’s not put all the pressure on Calderon, for it was Phil Jackson’s stubborn ideology of slow half-court sets of the triangle offense, while in today’s NBA, fast pace offense is the way to win (look at the Warriors and the Russell Westbrook).

According to ESPN, the Knicks were ranked fifth in pace and dead last in forced turnovers. So what does that mean? Porzingis was still putting up numbers that did not come from fast break buckets off turnovers and in a slow offense.  Put him in a team with new starting center Joakim Noah, who according to SportVU, played at an average speed of 4.73 miles per hour last season (faster than all but one Knicks player last season), and his numbers are still rising.

Lets not forget what new Knicks head coach, Jeff Hornacek, can bring to the table. His sets are near perfect for the roster he has, and also immaculate Porzingis game.

“You don’t see a guy 7-3 that can do multiple things. In our offense, you could see him in some high pick and rolls out of the sets we have, fading for threes,” said Hornacek.

Preseason games prove to be a good outline of how teams are going to look during the regular season. In their first game against the Rockets, Porzingis was coming off high screens from Carmelo and high pick and rolls with Rose. This led him to making three-point shot after three-point shot. He ended the game shooting five of six behind the arc.  If this is what Hornacek has in store for Porzingis, it’s just going to make the team that much more of a threat than expected in the Eastern Conference.

Everything from here on, until the regular season, is just mere speculation. We can’t predict what will happen because injuries and trades are always an imminent factor; however it is always fun to hypothesize, especially when players and teams exceed expectations.

Porzingis is just that type of player an NBA fan would want to look out for, simply because his skill set isn’t that of an average power forward. He has all the tools at his disposal and is in the right system with the right players surrounding him making him a menace that is one of a kind.

When you think of hybrid players that changed the game, you think of Lebron James for his combination of vision and size, or Dirk Nowitzki for his shooting touch and multiple skill sets in the post. Hopefully, Porzingis will be one of those amazing highlight reel players, but it probably won’t all come to fruition in the next year or two. It will take multiple seasons for him to reach his full potential. But if one thing’s for certain, if he is healthy and the Knicks make the playoffs, he will have that experience that will help him in the long run and, maybe one day, bring an NBA championship to New York City.

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