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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Who in the world is Zemgus Girgensons?

Who in the world is Zemgus Girgensons?

If you know the answer to that question, you’re either Latvian, a Buffalo Sabres fan, or play fantasy hockey. As I am none of those things, I had no idea who Zemgus Girgensons was. That name meant absolutely nothing until I began to tease out the possibility that Kristaps Porzingis might have a shot at being a starting player in the 2016 All Star Game. Crazy, you say? I have a simple answer for you: Zemgus Girgensons.

Girgensons is a very league average sort of center for the Buffalo Sabres, but he was a starter in last season’s NHL All Star Game. It seems that his Latvian fan base got their act together to dominate the voting and sent their national hero to play with the big boys. In the NBA, we’ve seen this sort of thing before as Yao Ming dominated the center position out West thanks to votes from the world’s most populous nation. Japanese fans have had a similar impact on MLB All Star voting over the years, and we all might remember the way the Kansas City fan base gamed the system to load the starting AL All-Star team with Royals. It helps in retrospect that the Royals just won the World Series, but you wouldn’t necessarily count their roster among the best players in the sport. They certainly proved themselves to be the best team in the end.

The Knicks find themselves in a perfect storm of Porzingasm thanks to the fresh wounds left behind from a 65 loss season in 2014-15, the disappointment of dropping to 4th in the NBA Draft Lottery, and the general atmosphere of shock surrounding our selection of the skinny Euro from Latvia. The team is playing better than expected, in some ways, the rookie looks like a franchise player, and Kristaps Porzingis is destined to be a much better player in his respective league than Zemgus Girgensons. The fact that he’s in New York City, he’s got tremendous promise, even beyond his precocious neophyting, and that he’s the biggest Latvian export the world has ever seen creates a perfect storm.

There are plenty of quantitative reasons to like what Porzingis has done for the very competitive Knicks this season. His on/off numbers are outstanding. His defense has been better than average and his offense has become increasingly efficient as he’s adjusted to the league a bit. The qualitative aspect of Porzingis’ impact on the sport is what will drive him towards a starting position on the All-Star team. He’s got heart. He’s got intensity. He’s confident, but self-aware. He says all the right things when a microphone is put in front of him. He seems to learn something new every night and he hasn’t once had bad games back-to-back. In fact, none of his performances are what you’d actually call bad.

Porzingis has shown a remarkable versatility in impacting games positively. He’s made mistakes, to be sure, but think about all the things we’ve seen him do. He’s rebounded like a beast, and especially on the offensive end where he’s produced a list of highlight put backs over brand name NBA stars. He’s started to hit the three more consistently, which has always looked like the most likely outcome with that beautiful stroke. He can put the ball on the floor and shoot on the move. He’s shown a Dream Shake. He’s got a sky hook from the left and the right side. He understands how to use his length by going vertical and changing shots around the rim without reaching into the defender. He has quick hands on defense and forces turnovers. Every game brings a new dimension into view and we’re loving it.

There’s going to be plenty of room to analyze Porzingis’ performance via metrics. There will be positive and negative in the snapshot. If the Knicks keep winning games and look competitive, and if he’s continuing the visual fireworks on a regular basis, it just may be Kristaps Porzingis in the starting lineup of the NBA All Star Game, rather than Carmelo Anthony. As a Knicks fan, both would be nice. Certainly, Melo will be on the team. In a way, I sort of dread the possibility that this could happen because it’s just the sort of storyline that drives clickbait pieces about Melo’s jealousy and rifts in the team that are likely to be both false and poisonous to the conversation in the fan base.

Who knows? I may be wrong and it may never come to it, but the name Zemgus Girgensons is out there after all.

49 comments on “Who in the world is Zemgus Girgensons?

  1. Brian Cronin

    Zinger was nominated for Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Lebron won, but still, that’s pretty damn awesome.

  2. Brian Cronin

    Ah, ptmilo notes that the Knicks nominated him. I didn’t know that’s how it works. That’s a lot less impressive. It’s still pretty cool, though!

  3. mikeplugh Post author

    I should point out that P&T poster Tomahawk Stomp hipped me to the Zemgus angle. I was already working on the All-Star angle and it turns out there’s even better reason that just good sense.

    I’ve been thinking about Porzingis’ Q-rating and various other things recently. He’s starting to reach the point of cult status, and I expect that ad agencies are probably waiting to see if he keeps it up a bit longer before jumping in with both feet. All this stuff is likely to happen at the same rate. His profile continues to surge, he gets some national ads and a shoe deal, the All-Star hype engine begins to rev, the first round of voting shows him in contention, and if the Knicks are playing well it could just explode.

  4. Zanzibar

    There’s only two things (other than injury) which could stop Phat Lat this season:

    (1) What will happen when the irresistible force meets the immovable object (rookie wall)?

    (2) Women – I’m not worried about him turning into a Latvian Lothario but I fear Prokhorov planting a seductive Baltic femme fatale in an effort to prevent a callow youth from sucking all of the oxygen out of Brooklyn. Let’s hope Kris’ Dingus becomes an immovable object upon meeting such an irresistible force.

  5. Totes McGoats

    I’m probably gonna get killed here for this, but I wonder how much a healthy Melo’s presence contributes to the space KP needs to use his considerable skills? Seriously! I am in no way taking anything away from KP because the kid is incredible. But shouldn’t we also be talking about how the presence of an all star scorer creates opportunities for others- especially when said scorer is passing the ball a lot more efficiently and more often? Melo/KP/Lopez are making up a nice frontcourt, and much of that is because of the Melo/KP tandem. We’re only 14 games in, but maybe it is time to consider changing the narrative about Melo. I said consider lol. As far as KP, the last Knicks rookie that had the cojones and swagger that he’s showing was Gallinari. To watch him just play without thinking and take over is a thing of beauty. Melo has got to be glad to have him because he is now seeing less double teams. And thanks to Phil, we also have Seraphin/Oaq/Williams to fill in and play more minutes at the 4/5 when KP hits that infamous rookie wall and allow him to catch his breath. Actually, I wonder if he’s gonna hit it hard at all- considering that Fish isn’t really playing him big minutes. We may not end up a playoff team, but I foresee more FA’s wanting to play for the Knicks in the offseason. I wonder if Monroe’s kicking himself in the ass. By the way..Lopez is the perfect compliment up front for Melo and KP.

  6. mikeplugh Post author

    @6

    I think it’s mutual. I think the threat of Melo helps Porzingis get his shots as much as the rebounding of Lopez helps him on the boards. The team is much better balanced overall and I think you see what a functioning system looks like.

  7. GoNyGoNYGo

    @6 Totes – You are not wrong. I posted previously about how Melo’s presence alone makes everyone better. If he’s not drawing doubles, he’s drawing the opponent’s best defender. Melo can stomp on most of those but some, the elite, can slow him. And as Mike Plugh just added, it affects the entire team.

    I’m really curious about tonight’s game. It seems that word has filtered down to Miami and they will be a focus on defending against KP tonight. I’m guessing that Bosh gets the draw and he can play great defense. Whether or not KP scores 20+ tonight, it’s his defense that needs to be working if the Knicks have hope of winning this game.

    About that rookie wall. KP played 50 games last year between Seville and Eurocup. That’s about half of what an NBA player plays. What might offset that is that he’s a gym rat. One does not get so polished without hours upon hours of practice. If he really does always put in the long hard week in the gym, he might have the stamina we expect of him.

  8. mikeplugh Post author

    I’m going to predict a 30 point game for Afflalo tonight. I will most certainly be wrong, but with the Heat focusing on Porzingis so much in their comments, and Melo sure to attract a lot of attention, I imagine there will be some very open jumpers for someone….I’ll just go with Afflalo. He’s been solid, but almost invisible in the Kristapocalypse from an attention standpoint. Every season he has a handful of 30 point games amidst all the 12 pointers. This seems like one of those nights.

  9. Unreason

    @11
    I bet it motivates him. He seems to thrive on challenges.
    I love that the Knicks are getting good enough for the old rivalries to matter again. I hope they friggin’ crush the Heat tonight!

  10. ptmilo

    I’m probably gonna get killed here for this, but I wonder how much a healthy Melo’s presence contributes to the space KP needs to use his considerable skills? Seriously! I am in no way taking anything away from KP because the kid is incredible. But shouldn’t we also be talking about how the presence of an all star scorer creates opportunities for others- especially when said scorer is passing the ball a lot more efficiently and more often?

    Ice KrisP TS% while on the floor with Melo: .504
    Ice KrisP TS% while on the floor w/out Melo: .667

  11. Zanzibar

    Yep, the Heat are basically crediting Melo here. Lets see how the kid adjusts.

    Bastards trying to get in the kid’s head. I hope he goes all Nowitzki on them. Remember how they questioned Dirk’s toughness up 2-1 in the Finals?

    Dirk Nowitzki described his feelings for the Miami Heat this summer as “probably about as close as it gets” to hate for him.

    Just like the kid said he won’t forget the boos on draft day, I hope he learns to hate everything about Miami: their whiny, bawling players, their used-car salesman president, their smirking coach, those fake, leather-faced, late-arriving, early-leaving, bland white-shirted bandwagonning fans, those hideous lawn flamingos…..

  12. mikeplugh Post author

    @14
    At first glance that seems like a small sample size issue. I imagine Porzingis has seen very few minutes without Melo, and most of them have come in recent games when he’s been on fire. There might be a correlation there, but it also might be small sample size-plus-circumstances of the games.

  13. ptmilo

    yes, it’s a tiny sample size, but the point is there is no evidence besides someone’s priors or eye test that Anthony’s presence on offense has helped Porzingis

  14. d-mar

    In the rebounding department, there’s no doubt that Lopez’s presence helps Zinger grab a lot of uncontested boards, particularly on the defensive end. Lopez is great at boxing out and leaving the rebounds for others, used to do the same thing in Portland with Aldridge, whose rebounding numbers were a little inflated because of that.

  15. dtrickey

    About that rookie wall. KP played 50 games last year between Seville and Eurocup. That’s about half of what an NBA player plays. What might offset that is that he’s a gym rat. One does not get so polished without hours upon hours of practice. If he really does always put in the long hard week in the gym, he might have the stamina we expect of him

    On the flip side, this could also contribute to him hitting the wall as well. So often rookies don’t know how to practice properly during a season, and the over enthusiasm leads to burn out. I don’t know what his routine would be like throughout the season, but hopefully it’s balanced. Growing boys need their rest.

  16. er

    yes, it’s a tiny sample size, but the point is there is no evidence besides someone’s priors or eye test that Anthony’s presence on offense has helped Porzingis

    The evidence is watching how teams defend Melo. If they did that to Porzingis he wouldnt have gotten alot of the open shots that hes gotten. Has nothing to do with any numbers. Early in the season Porzingis was routinely missing wide open threes and shots. Now hes making more of them. A

  17. er

    At first glance that seems like a small sample size issue. I imagine Porzingis has seen very few minutes without Melo, and most of them have come in recent games when he’s been on fire. There might be a correlation there, but it also might be small sample size-plus-circumstances of the games.

    I saw somewhere that hes played 95% of his minutes with Melo

  18. ptmilo

    In the rebounding department, there’s no doubt that Lopez’s presence helps Zinger grab a lot of uncontested boards, particularly on the defensive end.

    Money Zingis DRB%
    (1) With Rolo: 26.5%
    (2) Without Rolo: 13.1%

  19. The Honorable Cock Jowles

    The evidence is watching how teams defend Melo. If they did that to Porzingis he wouldnt have gotten alot of the open shots that hes gotten. Has nothing to do with any numbers. Early in the season Porzingis was routinely missing wide open threes and shots. Now hes making more of them. A

    lol dat priors

  20. Zanzibar

    This could get ugly soon. Melo waving off Pickzingis on the PnR at the end of that game is one of the first signs. Shades of Lin-Melo? Soon this will Porwingis’ team. Melo would defer to Bron or Chris Paul but not to some 22yo. Melo’s contract expires at the same time as Kris becomes a RFA. If the organization does not handle the situation properly, it could leave a sour taste in Staps mouth and he might pull a Monroe. Dolan might have to choose: opening gigs versus Porzingis? And the worst part of it, I’ll then have to read endless comments about proposed Boogie trades.

  21. Frank

    @ESPNStatsInfo: With Kristaps Porzingis & Carmelo Anthony on the floor, @nyknicks have outscored opponents by 65 points (outscored by 49 all other times)

    So can we just let this lie- the team is good, it’s fun, and the players complement each other. No need to assign too much blame or credit especially since both Melo and KP are here for at least the next 4 years.

    (Underrated part of this rebuild- Lopez, KP, Melo, Grant, KOQ are all signed for the next 4 years. We have at least early bird rights on Galloway. Finally we will have some continuity)

  22. DRed

    Bazingis this, Me7o that, meanwhile the real best player lurks like a shark in the deepwaters. Langston going to bring it Miami and their garbage ass back court just around the time all their fans are settling in.

  23. Frank

    Bazingis this, Me7o that, meanwhile the real best player lurks like a shark in the deepwaters. Langston going to bring it Miami and their garbage ass back court just around the time all their fans are settling in.

    Galloway is actually the player that stresses me out the most for this offseason. He will definitely make more than the mid level although we will be protected by the Arenas provision. I really hope he waits to sign an offer sheet until after we pick up whatever FAs Phil targets. But one can imagine us signing someone like Batum or even Conley and maybe having to keep Afflalo too. Between Calderon, afflalo, Batum/Conley, and grant, minutes may be hard to come by.

  24. er

    @32 i think Galloways loyalty is probably deep. He came from no where and was given a chance. He doesnt think hes bigger than anything.

  25. dtrickey

    This could get ugly soon. Melo waving off Pickzingis on the PnR at the end of that game is one of the first signs. Shades of Lin-Melo? Soon this will Porwingis’ team. Melo would defer to Bron or Chris Paul but not to some 22yo. Melo’s contract expires at the same time as Kris becomes a RFA. If the organization does not handle the situation properly, it could leave a sour taste in Staps mouth and he might pull a Monroe. Dolan might have to choose: opening gigs versus Porzingis? And the worst part of it, I’ll then have to read endless comments about proposed Boogie trades.

    That feels like a massive stretch. Potentially reading a bit to much into it. Melo has provided KP plenty of direction on offence over the first dozen games. I don’t think there should be cause for alarm because Melo waved him off on one play.

  26. Zanzibar

    i think Galloways loyalty is probably deep.

    Doubt it if his playing time doesn’t change. He’s much better than Afflalo and Calderon. Conley’s loyalty, on the other hand, is deep. He struggled early in his career but the Grizz org supported him; it could be a Danny Green type situation. Durant is probably a more likely option for us. There’s no way KD stays in OKC unless Westbrook and Ibaka (who become free agents one year later) are extended this summer when KD re-signs. I don’t know if CBA even allows that but regardless Westbrook and Ibaka are more likely to want to wait one more year when cap is expected to be much higher.

  27. JK47

    Doubt it if his playing time doesn’t change.

    He’s second on the team in minutes. He’s getting plenty of playing time.

  28. johnno

    Jowles — good to see that you’re here today because I need your help with something. When I called your “Drummond had the best rookie season by a center ever” comment ludicrous, you told me that I should check the stats. I did and I’m really confused. Exactly what stat(s) support your position? The guy averaged 7 points/7 rebounds a game (13/13 per 36), .578 TS%, and .172 WS48. Nice numbers, especially for a guy that young, but best ever? By what criteria? Can’t be points or rebounds, because loads of guys did better there (Wilt jumps to mind for leading the league in both as a rookie), even on a per minute basis. Can’t be something silly like ROY because loads of guys trump him there. Impact on his team? Wes Unseld was league MVP as a rookie and guys like Alcindor, Shaq, Duncan and Walton played major roles on winning teams. TS% because I know you love that one? Good but not Bill Catrwright or Artis Gilmore good. Must be WS48 then. Not quite. Aside from the obvious guys like Wilt, Duncan and Robinson, the list of guys with similar or better WS48 includes Unseld, Gilmore, Brad Miller, Jeff Ruland, Sabonis, Yao, Oden, Bellamy and a bunch more. Laimbeer and Zelmo Beatty missed the cut but not by much. So, what am I missing? What’s the magic stat? By the way, did you know that Bill Russell had a career TS% of .474? He must have sucked.

  29. Brian Cronin

    Galloway is actually the player that stresses me out the most for this offseason. He will definitely make more than the mid level although we will be protected by the Arenas provision. I really hope he waits to sign an offer sheet until after we pick up whatever FAs Phil targets. But one can imagine us signing someone like Batum or even Conley and maybe having to keep Afflalo too. Between Calderon, afflalo, Batum/Conley, and grant, minutes may be hard to come by.

    I didn’t even think about the whole “Signing an offer sheet early in free agency” angle. Thanks, Frank, now that’s a new thing to worry about! But I still think it’s unlikely other teams make him a big offer. I think his best bet is to take a one-year deal and go to free agency in 2017.

  30. Zanzibar

    Fpr the Irish among you, how about Aer Zingus?

    I tried that months ago; only T-bone guy liked it.

    He’s second on the team in minutes. He’s getting plenty of playing time.

    His minutes have decreased since Afflalo’s return. Langston worked really hard this summer and I’d be pissed if I were him if perennially overrated Afflalo were taking my minutes.

  31. lavor postell

    His minutes have decreased since Afflalo’s return. Langston worked really hard this summer and I’d be pissed if I were him if perennially overrated Afflalo were taking my minutes.

    Yeah we’ve just sucked so much balls since Afflalo came back. That defensive improvement since his return has really hurt the team. What an awful and consistent player he is. Hopefully we can dump him in case Langston who hasn’t said anything to indicate he’s upset, get more minutes even though he’s 2nd on the team in MP and was recently the highest minutes player in the 4th quarter in the entire NBA.

    This could get ugly soon. Melo waving off Pickzingis on the PnR at the end of that game is one of the first signs. Shades of Lin-Melo? Soon this will Porwingis’ team. Melo would defer to Bron or Chris Paul but not to some 22yo. Melo’s contract expires at the same time as Kris becomes a RFA. If the organization does not handle the situation properly, it could leave a sour taste in Staps mouth and he might pull a Monroe. Dolan might have to choose: opening gigs versus Porzingis? And the worst part of it, I’ll then have to read endless comments about proposed Boogie trades.

    Jesus

    “We’re just building it,’’ Anthony said of their relationship. “I’m here to help him and use my experience and help him get his feet wet, and he’s doing a pretty good job. I don’t want any credit for that. He’s doing a good job on his own. Learning the game and getting a feel for the game. You can see each game he’s getting better.’’

    http://nypost.com/2015/11/23/big-brother-carmelo-already-talking-nba-titles-with-porzingis/

    Things are really getting ugly……..is that you Stephen A?

  32. Frank

    I think [Galloway]’s best bet is to take a one-year deal and go to free agency in 2017.

    I sort of hope that’s what he does (perhaps 1+1 deal to give him some protection — but if someone puts, say $36MM guaranteed on the table for him, which is very easy to imagine (4 years 36MM which, if he continues like this will be a serious bargain) I think it’d be hard for a guy who was just scrapping in the d-league 10 minutes ago to not sign that offer sheet.

    I think the best play for the Knicks is probably to wait for that offer sheet and hope someone offers him something reasonable. Better to lock him into a long-term deal with reasonable cap numbers over the next few years (and worry about the balloon later I guess).

    Now if no offer sheet comes, then it’ll get interesting. Phil is not the guy to play hardball with his players, which has its good and bad to it. Ideally we would just sign him to the early bird exception which would leave all of the ~$19MM in cap room to bring in some more talent. My guess is that Durant and Conley will go elsewhere, and that Phil doesn’t see value in chasing the top guys for what will feel like an overpay– and we’ll end up with 2nd-3rd tier guys, much like we did this year. The FA class is really really weak after Durant/Conley. Lebron is clearly going back to Cleveland. no way Parsons or Dirk leave Cuban. Conley really is the only player that might move if Memphis still looks this far from contention — but he’ll already be near 30.

  33. Zanzibar

    Yeah we’ve just sucked so much balls since Afflalo came back. That defensive improvement since his return has really hurt the team. What an awful and consistent player he is.

    Yeah because we should rely on 3 or 4 games instead of a career.

    Langston who hasn’t said anything to indicate he’s upset

    Because he didn’t go to isola, he’s not upset. K I’ll rely on common sense that a guy who’s playing really well doesn’t want his minutes cut for an Afflalo.

    was recently the highest minutes player in the 4th quarter in the entire NBA.

    No more.

    Are you seriously quoting “I just wanna win, it’s not about the money” Melo as support for your argument? Sheesh!

  34. lavor postell

    @Frank

    Galloway can’t sign an offer sheet until the moratorium ends correct? In that scenario as long as the Knicks handle their other FA business prior to the end of the moratorium which I believe is July 10, they should be able to order everything where they can go over the cap to bring him back after using their space.

    I’m not super concerned about it. I think Fisher and Phil really love everything about him.

  35. lavor postell

    Because he didn’t go to isola, he’s not upset. K I’ll rely on common sense that a guy who’s playing really well doesn’t want his minutes cut for an Afflalo.

    Umm what’s your common sense? Why does it even matter? He’s restricted. If the Knicks want him he’ll be back and there’s literally not one shred of evidence to suggest he’s pissed except for your ridiculous conjecture.

    Yeah because we should rely on 3 or 4 games instead of a career.

    Yeah he’s been a downright awful player for his career. Unreal.

    Are you seriously quoting “I just wanna win, it’s not about the money” Melo as support for your argument? Sheesh!

    Your evidence is a PNR at the end of 1 game that Melo waived off.

    I could cite evidence of Melo gushing about Porzingis after his 29/11 game at MSG. I could cite the fact that he went out of his way to practice with the kid all summer after being drafted. I could cite some other evidence of Porzingis talking about how much Melo has helped him. But I won’t do that since you seem hell bent on doing your best Stephen A impression.

  36. Zanzibar

    Yeah he’s been a downright awful player for his career. Unreal.

    You want real? Afflalo’s a .086 WS/48 player over his career and .024 in the playoffs! He’s even worse when you factor in defense.

    Umm what’s your common sense? Why does it even matter? He’s restricted.

    Because he could do what Monroe did.

    All of Melo’s gushing is meaningless. It’s his on-court behavior that matters. What happens when Porzingis is a better option at the end of games?

  37. lavor postell

    Because he could do what Monroe did.

    Monroe wanted an offer from Detroit and would have accepted, but they never presented him with one. The Knicks will make Galloway an offer.

    You want real? Afflalo’s a .086 WS/48 player over his career and .024 in the playoffs!

    He gets paid $2.5m less than Iman Shumpert this year and he’s better than him. What’s the issue here? Not like we’re committed to him long term and the team has played well with him. Is he costing us games? Has his defense been awful?

  38. Zanzibar

    He gets paid $2.5m less than Iman Shumpert this year and he’s better than him. What’s the issue here? Not like we’re committed to him long term and the team has played well with him. Is he costing us games? Has his defense been awful?

    Our best players should be getting the most minutes, especially in the 4th quarter. Galloway is the future and currently rocking a +.200 WS/48. Afflalo should get minutes but Galloway should get more and play at the end of games until he struggles.

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