Kristaps Porzingis Has Been a Pleasant Surprise to Start the Season


When Kristaps Porzingis was made the fourth overall pick last June, I understood why people were upset. He was a big, international big man coming in after a year of dealing with Andrea Bargnani. He was an unknown, compared to the likes of Willie Cauley-Stein and Justice Winslow. He was labeled as a potential project after the Knicks committed a five-year, max contract to Carmelo Anthony.

But even after showing flashes of a good overall game in Las Vegas Summer League, Porzingis has impressed to start the regular season and it has certain Knicks fans wondering if he could be a potential cog to the next great Knicks team.  

After a good performance against San Antonio (13 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks and three steals), Porzingis looked good, battling against the likes of Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge, even getting a dunk over Aldridge. He followed it up with a nice performance – 13 points and four rebounds – against Cleveland and had some impressive moments against Kevin Love, as well as overshadowing him on a few post-up possessions.

The biggest rarity in basketball is the big man who can shoot threes at an above average rate and defend the rim among the best in the league. There’s not too many players who can do that. Offensively, it allows you maintain balance and spacing. Defensively, it gives you someone who can stop one of the best shots in basketball.  Oklahoma City forward Serge Ibaka is the only real player who possesses those traits according to Nylon Calculus’ Seth Partnow.

In this recent draft class, three players fit into that phylum: Minnesota’s Karl Anthony-Towns, Indiana’s Myles Turner (just waits until he starts letting them fly; loved that pick by Indiana, a team that normally does well with picks in that range) and Porzingis.

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Offensively, there was some small traits that impressed. He knows to just pop out to the three-point line on pick and roll plays, knowing that if need be, he can take someone off the dribble and attack the basket. He’s also a good screen setter and working with Robin Lopez, who’s good in his own right, should help him improve in that aspect as well.

Despite his slim upper body, Porzingis is shooting well at the rim, hitting 60% of his shots at the rim, via

Defensively, there’s already been a hint of impact. With Porzingis on the floor, the Knicks have a 97.2 defensive rating. Off the floor, that number jumps to 105.0, per Getting closer to the rim and his value expands. Porzingis is  currently has a defensive field goal percentage of 47.4% when guarding the rim, 10.1 points better than the league average, 57.4%. At the rim, he’s allowing 42.4% at the rim on 5.5 opponent attempts.

His size allows him to be an effective weapon without really jumping. Being athletic allows him to take a step away from the rim and pester mid-range shooters and the like. He’s still learning about the team defense – he can get lost in the middle of the floor at times – but it’s encouraging to see him affect the defense in a positive manner.

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There are things, like all rookies, Porzingis needs to work on. Currently, Kristaps is fouling at an astronomical rate – 4.2 per game, 6.2 per 36 minutes. Some of them have been the result of getting worked in the post, while others have been silly fouls. Alongside the fouls, I want to see him move the ball a bit. Porzingis currently has an assist percentage of 4.8%. I only harp on it because it was a concern coming from overseas.

It’s a small sample size, but Porzingis being able to handle starting in the league without looking completely overwhelmed is a plus. The fact he’s providing solid defense is also a plus. Besides working on cutting down the fouls, I’m curious to see if his plays more center as the season moves on. Positions have been rendered useless, but I think Porzingis’ future is at the center position, as opposed to power forward.

The Knicks have a nice young talent since the days of Danilo Gallinari and it will be interesting to see how he adds to his game and if he can reach that franchise player status so many want him to be. The thought of starting him to start the season was considered a mistake – and with fair reasoning, the Knicks are best with Anthony at power forward – but seeing Porzingis’ early start has been a treat for Knicks fans.