The New York Knicks have a true franchise player in eight-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony. Nevertheless, New York made an investment in the proverbial heir to the throne during the 2015 NBA Draft.
Rather than resenting Kristaps Porzingis and his long-term future with the team, Anthony is taking a different approach: facilitating the Latvian big man’s development.
Anthony has always been more of an ISO-oriented player, which has created the image of a selfish non-leader—whether fair or foul. His task in 2015-16 is leading a group of non-stars to an improbable postseason appearance, which makes his prowess as a leader a hot topic.
According to Ian Begley of ESPN New York, Anthony is ready for the challenge. How he’ll start is serving as something of a big brother to Porzingis.
"“I kind of feel bad for him because there’s so much pressure on him at this point and this guy hasn’t played not even one minute in the NBA,” Anthony said during the Knicks’ media day Monday. “I’m going to try to be a big brother to him and kind of take the pressure off of him a little bit.“It’s something that he never experienced before … so this is new to him. To be a newcomer to this game, to this league, in New York, that’s tough. I don’t know if he knows what he’s about to get himself into, so I kind of have to be that wall for him.”"
That’s a mature approach to what could easily be described as an undesirable situation for a player of Anthony’s caliber and profile.
Porzingis is one of the most tantalizing prospects to emerge from the NBA Draft in quite some time. He stands at 7’3″ and can shoot from just about anywhere on the court.
Kevin Seraphin, one of New York’s more intriguing offseason signings, believes that people are underestimating Porzingis’ upside.
That combination is close to impossible to find.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, only one player in NBA history has stood at 7’3″ and made more than 30 3-point field goals in a single season: Arvydas Sabonis. If you cut the required height to 7’2″, Sabonis remains the only name on the list.
That’s far from the only barometer for Porzingis’ upside, but he should join Sabonis in that exclusive club—a testament to his rare versatility.
As for how Anthony plans on helping Porzingis realize his potential, a lot of it will be on the court. Anthony isn’t the type of player to yell at or berate his teammates, but instead lead by example.
That was evident in Anthony battling Porzingis 1-on-1.
Porzingis elaborated, per Begley:
"“As I played against him, he was showing off all his moves and I was trying to learn from him,” Porzingis said. “… I’m trying to learn as much as I can from him, asking him questions. For me to be around him all day long is great.”"
If Porzingis can learn anything about scoring from Anthony, he’d be a significantly better player because of it.
Anthony has his critics, but he’s one of the most dominant scorers in NBA history. He’s accumulated in excess of 20,000 points and ranks No. 12 all-time in career points per game average.
If Anthony is as good of a mentor as he is a scorer, Porzingis will be special.
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