Thus far during the 2015 NBA preseason, New York Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis has experienced some growing pains. He’s shooting 34.6 percent from the field, missed two games due to a nagging leg injury and has only made two trips to the free throw line.
The icing on the inedible cake was this play against the Charlotte Hornets:
That dunk summarized the evening for Porzingis, who shot just 3-of-11 from the field in 17 minutes of action during New York’s 97-93 loss.
Despite his struggles, the Knicks are more optimistic than anything else. The numbers tell a troubling story, but as is generally the case with the preseason, statistics can be misleading.
The coaching staff certainly believes so.
“I saw aggression. I saw him going to the rim strong. I saw him rebounding. I saw him changing shots,” Fisher said “He’s been in and out with injuries, so the shooting, like I said, is not really my issue.
“I don’t think we question whether he can shoot the ball. Seeing him try to dunk on somebody, to me, that means he played a good game.”
That’s not just an optimistic viewpoint; it’s a realistic one.
Porzingis isn’t the first big man to enter the NBA with the ability to light teams up from 3-point range. The common issue with those players, however, is that they settle for jump shots instead of capitalizing on their size advantage down low.
Plays like Porzingis’ attempted dunk on Cody Zeller prove that he’s not afraid to take it inside.
There’s an obvious and fair concern that Porzingis will be discouraged by the result of his dunk attempt. Not only was he rejected at the rim, but nothing else seemed to fall for him during that game.
Instead of taking the pessimistic route, Porzingis laughed at the idea of no longer attacking the rim.
“Sometimes you get blocked,” the 7-3 Porzingis said. “I’m sure I’ll dunk on some people too.”
That’s the end of that.
For as exciting as it may be to have a Top 5 NBA Draft pick on the roster, Knicks fans must provide Porzingis with a measure of patience. He has the tools to be a dynamic player, but he’s also a 20-year-old rookie without a single regular season game of experience.
There will be growing pains, and Saturday’s loss to the Hornets was one of them.
That doesn’t mean Porzingis is any less tantalizing a prospect. Nor does it make him any less worthy of Phil Jackson‘s faith and investment.
All it means is that Porzingis is in the process of finding his niche.
Seeing as it was a preseason game, it’s far more important to evaluate Porzingis’ style of play than it is to analyze his statistics. The former is far more encouraging than anything else.
Not only has Porzingis proven aggressive in attacking the rim, but he’s not afraid to go to the post. The fact that he can shoot from beyond the arc is an undeniable benefit, but his versatility has been on full display.
That applies to both his offensive and defensive arsenal.
The process he’s currently experiencing is that of figuring out how to balance his skills and create the perfect offensive attack.
While Porzingis may be motivated by Knicks fans and their high expectations, he deserves the benefit of the doubt as he develops into the player Jackson drafted him to be.
If you’ve already given up on him because of a blocked dunk or a lackluster stat line, perhaps building a sustainable contender isn’t for you.