Knicks to ‘Punish’ Interior with Kristaps Porzingis, Robin Lopez


The New York Knicks don’t have much, but they certainly have a surplus of big players with intriguing skills. Four players on the roster stand at 6’10” or taller, and two are a legitimate 7’0″ or bigger.

The latter two giants, Robin Lopez and Kristaps Porzingis, could anchor the Knicks’ postseason aspirations in 2015-16.

Lopez, a 7’0″ center, is one of the Association’s most productive offensive rebounders and a reliable two-way player. Porzingis, a 7’3″ power forward, is an enigmatic rookie whose upside is without limit.

When the two are on the floor together, expect head coach Derek Fisher to, “Punish,” teams along the interior, per Al Iannazzone of Newsday.

"“When we have that kind of size on the floor hopefully we can punish teams on the interior offensively and defensively,” Fisher said. “We’ll still have good floor spacing because of Kristaps’ ability to shoot the ball.“We have a big team. I think it’s important for us to take advantage of that when we can.”"

Fisher knows exactly how beneficial it can be for a team to control the interior.

Fisher’s former teammates include Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Shaquille O’Neal. Bynum and Gasol helped the Lakers win back-to-back championships, and O’Neal anchored a three-peat.

Fisher ran point for all five of those title-winning teams.

The dynamic between Bynum and Gasol could be similar to the manner in which Lopez and Porzingis are utilized. Bynum was the bruising low-post force, while Gasol was able to play from the elbow as a complement to his own back-to-the-basket attack.

Lopez and Porzingis aren’t of the same caliber as Bynum and Gasol, but they are playing in the same system with similar roles.

It’s worth noting that associate coach Kurt Rambis recently compared Porzingis’ upside to a mix of Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki. It’s not the first time we’ve heard such a comparison, as Porzingis was likened to Gasol throughout the NBA Draft process.

Porzingis’ versatility is well-documented, but the fact that Lopez has some up his sleeve is what makes this duo so intriguing to coach Fisher.

"“Hopefully defending and rebounding, and the ability to protect the rim,” Fisher said. “Kris is a versatile offensive player so there’s a lot of things we can do with him on the floor. [It’s] not necessarily a traditional big lineup.“He plays like a big in some respects but he’s also a stretch [power forward] in some respects. That’s the attraction to why we drafted him as well as he likes defending and changing shots. Robin’s a really good passer from the high post, a great rim protector and a great offensive rebounder.”"

Both players will play massive roles for New York moving forward.

Porzingis’ ability to space the floor from beyond the arc is a tool that will inevitably be utilized. His accuracy from mid-range should enable New York to station him at the high post, and his touch around the basket enables him to play on the low block.

Offensively, there isn’t a spot on the floor at which Porzingis is truly out of his element.

Lopez lacks elite range on his solid jump shot, but he’s a strong 255 pounds with the aptitude to finish with both hands around the basket. He’s also a strong screen-setter who finishes well off the pick-and-roll and crashes the offensive boards at an elite level.

Lopez was No. 2 in the NBA in offensive rebounds per game in 2013-14 before overcoming injuries and inconsistent playing time to place at No. 8 in 2014-15.

Given the fact that Porzingis was selected at No. 4 overall in the 2015 NBA Draft, it’s clear that he’s the future at power forward. Lopez’s $54 million contract suggests the same about his place at center.

In 2015-16, the Knicks will have their first opportunity to see just how punishing a frontcourt of Lopez, Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony can be.

Next: Did the boos deter Kristaps Porzingis? No. 'I love Knicks fans.'

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