New York Knicks: Kai Sotto on early Kristaps Porzingis path

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 17: Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks celebrates after drawing the foul in the fourth quarter against the Charlotte Hornets at Madison Square Garden on November 17, 2015 in New York City.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 17: Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks celebrates after drawing the foul in the fourth quarter against the Charlotte Hornets at Madison Square Garden on November 17, 2015 in New York City.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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Kai Sotto, a 16-year-old basketball phenom, has drawn comparisons to New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis.

When Kristaps Porzingis joined the New York Knicks in the 2015 NBA Draft, his transition from the European game to the state-side courts came into question. Including the strength to muscle big men in the post and defensive hiccups, there was some doubt.

Of course, three years later, the 7-foot-3 forward became a standout talent that’s set to lead the Knicks into the future, whenever he returns from a torn ACL. With fluid movement on the court and the ability to shoot anywhere, he’s already a star.

With his European roots, he received Dirk Nowitzki comparisons, which the future Hall of Famer once agreed with. However, as the next generation of players look to make their mark, is there already the next Porzingis on the way?

Kai Sotto, a 7-foot-1 standout from the Philippines that’s just 16-years-old (and born in 2002), started to garner hype with his showings at the U16 Asia Championship and U17 World Cup this year. He combined for 16.6 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks, and saw his shooting percentage jump from 41.0 in the U16 Asia Championship to 47.2 in the U17 World Cup, according to RealGM.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN noted there’s still work for Sotto to do to polish his game, but it’s “easy to see the talent.” As of Oct. 31, he’s an athletic player who needs physical growth at his tantalizing size.

It became enough to draw worldwide interest, as former NBA player Cherokee Parks confirmed to Delfin Dioquino of Rappler. Sotto reportedly received a five-year offer from Real Madrid.

"“Real Madrid is a phenomenal basketball organization so to see him have an opportunity for them to show interest shows what kind of potential that he has,” Parks added."

This contract, if accepted (he may stay with Ateneo, for now), would take Sotto on the international path of other NBA talents, including Porzingis, as noted by Klyde Manansala of MultiSport. He joined Sevilla in 2010 as a 15-year-old kid from Latvia and jumped to their first team by 2012.

Once the 2018 All-Star dove into his professional career, he found year over year success that climbed from 2.0 points in 6.6 minutes in 2012-13 to 11.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.0 block in 21.4 minutes.

A similar route may be in store for this young phenom—if he signs with Real Madrid or another European squad—and, according to Parks in the same Rappler article, his game can eventually translate to the NBA:

"“I think what happened with Kai being thin, that seems to be in America, they like the centers that are agile, that are thin, that can run up and down the floor and get around so he kind of fits physically. I think he fits the mold,” he said. ”We have a big player from the New York Knicks, Kristaps Porzingis. [He’s] 7-foot-4, thin, but he moves so well, he gets around the court so well.”"

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The book is hardly out on Sotto, who won’t be draft eligible until the 2020’s. It leaves time to develop his extremely raw game, which doesn’t have enough to offer an official scouting report. He’ll ride on size, ball handling, athleticism, and potential for the next three-to-five years before becoming an NBA prospect.