Kristaps Porzingis played his first NBA game Saturday for the Knicks’ summer league team. The first thing that jumped out at me about Porzingis is his size. He’s listed as 7-3 in sneakers, and he’s clearly head & shoulders above the other players. He had 2 blocks and I’m not even sure he jumped to get them. His immense stature is almost unworldly, slightly reminiscent of Yao Ming, but not nearly as pronounced. Actually the best comparison is Rik Smits.
The fourth overall pick in 2015 is not as stiff as Smits, but he’s not a fluid as you’d imagine from the scouting reports, especially on the defensive end. On an early play, he blocked a shot, then fell for a head fake and ran into an opponent going for the block. Yes that’s partially from being 19 years old in his first NBA game. But also it’s lack of quickness that contributed to it. On another defensive series, he didn’t do much to defend the pick & roll, going far under the pick and ended giving up a wide open jumpshot.
Given this, I can’t imagine him playing small forward, like ever. And actually I’m not sure power forward is a good fit for him either. His true position is center, undoubtedly. Perhaps while scouting Porzingis, given his skinny frame the common wisdom was the Kevin Durant treatment for his first year (i.e. play him against players twice as small). But the NBA small forwards are wayyyy too quick for him. He seemed to be OK at center, although I’d like to see him against NBA size and caliber players before ultimately deciding on this.
Offensively, his size was his main asset. Zinger caught a number of balls near the rim & ended up with lots of free throw attempts. His outside shot didn’t seem to be fluid, esp. compared to another Knick recent draftee Gallinari. He made a jumper off the backboard from about 10 feet, which I’d like to see him repeat cuz it’d be cool if he Duncan’d his jumpers. One shot was an awkward alley-oop that he guided to the hoop, as opposed to slam. The last was a loose ball that he just put up & went in. Of his misses one jump shot was from about 4 feet from behind the arc, the other from about 15 feet. Both were with defenders near by. Due to fact the he makes everyone else look like an 11 year old, he can get this shot off nearly at will. But if he can’t hit them, these are worthless.
The rookie was able to put the ball on the floor a few times. In one drive, he entered the paint, but his lack of strength forced him to take a fadeaway jumper. He had one nice feed to Grant on a give-and-go from the post on the baseline. Grant got fouled near the rim (so no assist). So perhaps there’s some vision there.
The big red flag in Porzingis’ game could be his rebounding. Hitting the glass seemed to be a major issue, and if he doesn’t show more, especially in a year or two — gulp! More than once I noted the Spurs recovering one of their misses that Porzingis could have made an attempt to grab. I’m not saying he should have ended up with them, but he looked like an observer and not a participant. He ended up with only 3 boards, which was 5th on the team, and the Spurs had 14 offensive rebounds.
There were two other plays of note. The negative one, had Porzingis running into the half court set not paying attention to the ball. Kristaps was uncovered, and Grant fed him the ball. Luckily for the Knicks, he was able to draw a foul on the play. But had he been more aware, he likely would have realized he was open and had an easy bucket.
The positive one was diving for a loose ball in the fourth quarter. That one led to a Spurs easy bucket, but it was nice to see the youngster give up his body.
So there’s lots of stuff to watch for, and I’m pretty excited to see what he does in game 2 (and 3 and …).