A merry Kristaps in New York

Us Knick fans got our Christmas gift exactly six months early, though very few of us knew it at the time. Yes, I was among those who despaired when Adam Silver said Kristaps Porzingis’ name on Draft Night.

But the Latvian has been better than even optimists could have expected. Imagine how pessimists feel.

Let’s look back on what the prognosticators said about young Porzingis—positive and negative—when he was still a prospect, and compare it to what he’s done so far.

Uncomfortable in the post

Scouts said Porzingis preferred facing up to playing in the post. This is sort of true. Porzingis doesn’t have the strength to dislodge post defenders, and he can and does rely on the ever-present option of shooting over his opponents.

That said, Porzingis is decently effective down in the paint, with an eFG% of .560 inside 6 feet, 43rd among players with at least 100 attempts, and even with centaur Andre Drummond.

Too skinny

This is true as well. Porzingis rarely has a strength advantage over defenders. Strongmen like Bull Bobby Porter meet little resistance when they really want to get good post position or, on the other end, deny Porzingis good post position.

Keep eating those pancakes, young blood.

Defense and rebounding need work

Nope! Despite Porzingis’ lack of strength, he’s still 7’3”, and he uses it to his advantage. On Saturday, he threw his Gumby limbs in the path of multiple Bull scoring attempts, with great success.


His long arms and quick feet have made him one of the best shot-blockers in the league. And Porzingis dispelled any doubts about his rebounding pretty resoundingly.

Excellent shooter

The stroke is there, but a .519 TS% is not “excellent” by any means. It’s not a huge cause of concern—yet. Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal has written that many European imports struggle as rookies. Porzingis’ shooting numbers were stronger in Europe, hitting 36% of his three-pointers in his last year in Spain.

Unbelievable upside

A lot of scouts loved Porzingis before the draft, despite his lack of exposure. Now we know why. The possibilities for this 20-year-old are wide: He’s a giant pogo stick. He’s capable of making plays no one else can. Even simple defensive rebounds are awe-inspiring, Kristaps leaping over the bruisers below, extending his arms toward and snatching the ball like Spider-Man’s webbing.

I wrote when Porzingis was drafted about how excited I was to see how he’d turn out, but how nervous I was about the Knicks’ ability to develop him. So far I’m pleased with the results. The Triangle lets Porzingis wear a lot of hats on offense, and having veterans like Carmelo Anthony and Robin Lopez alongside him eases the pressure of having to be a franchise savior—though I’m sure many of us already see him that way. Let’s see if he lives up to our hopes.

Merry Kristaps, everyone.

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An upbeat Knicks fan! Just kidding.

30 thoughts to “A merry Kristaps in New York”

  1. Who wouldn’t need the low post scoring that Seraphin provides? All you have to do is get him to knock off the mid range shit . . .

    NBA coaches/front offices are way too optimistic about their ability to fix players.

  2. @5 I thought it was so… “delightful” that it ended with the brilliant insight of “hurr hurr dnt be surprised if Knicks traid half there team for Dwight Howard hurr durr”

  3. Yeah, if it had spent half as much time on insight as it did on snark, it would have been…well, it would have been a completely different article.

  4. @4

    How in the world does Seraphim have trade value?

    This time of year the cherubs get a little lonely…

  5. Porzingis is already legendary in New York. He’s been good so far but I don’t necessarily want him to gain weight. With weight means he’ll be a little slower and he needs that speed to recover and block shots (he has this Marcus Camby-esque way of purposely letting the defender get by him so he bait him into putting up a shot he can block). I want him to get stronger, though. For sure. He’ll never be a dominant player on either end without the ability to physically impose his will on the game unless he becomes the Steph Curry of the front court. Porzingis’ shooting percentages have dropped recently and I don’t think they’ll be rising anytime soon considering the type of shots our offense generates. Over his career, I hope he develops an automatic jumper like KG’s from 21 feet out. Defensively and rebounding wise, I don’t worry about him. He’s already the Knicks best interior defender and rebounder. Ideally, for me, the Knicks would somehow end up with Terrence Jones and Hassan Whiteside and the Knicks would have their own version of Gasol/Bynum/Odom for the next 4 to 5 years.

    For all the success Golden State is having, the Spurs are looking like a 60 win team with Aldrige, Diaw, and Duncan in a more traditional starting front court and will be an extremely tough out in the playoffs (of course Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and Tony Parker are probably more important to the Spurs success). If Phil wants to build a big team, I think Porzingis is the right piece to build around. His versatility allows you to play him at both the 4 and 5, so you can sign a marquee FA at either position and be able to make it work.

  6. Personally if we’re going to move Lopez and go after another big in the summer the two I would target are Motiejunas and Jon Leuer.

  7. But the Latvian has been better than even optimists could have expected. Imagine how pessimists feel.

    I’m willing to admit from behind the protection of my monitor that I was one of those pessimists. My reasoning at the time was that while I liked his offensive potential I liked it more as a high level secondary scorer than a number one option, and given what I expected from the other areas of his game that I didn’t think that would be enough for him to reach star level.

    On the offensive side of the ball I would say I still have similar reservations. I’m not completely convinced he’s ever going to be able to do enough with the ball in his hands to be a 30% usage guy with the scoring average to match, but I do think he’ll eventually become an efficient secondary scorer whose ability to make 3s will provide a lot of secondary benefits in terms of spacing.

    However, his defense and rebounding have been so far above an beyond what I expected that it has really blown the rest of the evaluation out of the water. He does need to bulk up a bit obviously, but I was doubtful that he would ever be able to hold his own at center, and he has already shown that it’s a viable option immediately and should become his primary position over time.

    Ultimately that ability to play center is the most important thing in my eyes. As a PF his offensive skillset really doesn’t profile as all that unique any more given how in vogue stretch 4s are. He’d be a very big 4, but not one who really stood far above the crowd with his skill or shooting. As a 5 on the other hand…there are very, very few guys who can give you elite rim protection and shooting, and they tend to be the anchors of persistent championship contenders. So in conclusion, I’d say my pessimism was off base.

  8. Did anyone else see the articles about how Governor Cuomo claims that he tore ligaments in his hand yesterday playing one on one against his brother by hitting his hand on the rim? How is it possible that not a single reporter asked, “Hey, wait a minute. You’re a 6 foot tall 58 year-old guy and you can touch the rim? Really?” Those of you who are in your 30s or younger will not appreciate how extraordinary that is. Those of you who are my age (56) are probably amazed.

  9. “I can dunk on the rim in my dad’s driveway. It’s not that amazing.”
    An average 6′ guy has a standing reach of maybe 7’10” or so. In order to dunk, you have to get your hand at least 4-6″ above the rim, which means an average 6′ guy has to get 30-32″ off the ground to dunk. Most 20 year olds can’t jump that high (which is why the vast majority of 6′ people can’t dunk) so, if you are 58 years old and you can jump that high, I am extraordinarily impressed. If, on the other hand, you are 30, I’m still pretty impressed, but I also think that you will be shocked at how much your athletic ability is going to deteriorate in the next 28 years, regardless of how hard you work at staying in shape.

  10. @21 People do ratchet baskets down. I’m surprised no one asked him. Where’s a basketball reporter when you need him on the campaign trail?

  11. Baby boy needs to practice shooting with Lance. If he starts making 9 of 13 instead of 3-13 we’re gonna reel in some mo fukers!

    Hey! Happy New Years KB! I really appreciate sharing this obsession with you guys.
    d

  12. An average 6? guy has a standing reach of maybe 7’10” or so. In order to dunk, you have to get your hand at least 4-6? above the rim, which means an average 6? guy has to get 30-32? off the ground to dunk. Most 20 year olds can’t jump that high (which is why the vast majority of 6? people can’t dunk) so, if you are 58 years old and you can jump that high, I am extraordinarily impressed. If, on the other hand, you are 30, I’m still pretty impressed, but I also think that you will be shocked at how much your athletic ability is going to deteriorate in the next 28 years, regardless of how hard you work at staying in shape.

    You gotta love KB – your spot for high level analysis of geriatric dunking.

  13. On another note, if you want to kill some time on your commute home, read a game thread on libertyballers.com the day after a Sixers blowout. They’re pretty funny. They always start optimistically with lots of “Jah looking good so far,” “Nerlens really active on defense” and “tonight’s the night Stauskas breaks out” comments in the first quarter. By halftime, they’ve turned into, “Will someone please tell Jah to get his lazy ass back on defense,” “Jeez Nerlens is useless on offense” and “Stauskas clearly does not belong in the NBA.” The third quarter is filled with disgust, dismay and calls for firing of the front office and staff.” Then, in the fourth quarter, the “trust the process crowd” rises from the ashes and starts proposing trades that range from stupid to ludicrous and the dreams of next year’s lineup (always featuring Ben Simmons, Saric and Embiid) start appearing. It always makes me feel a little better about our lot in life.

  14. Maybe comrade Deblasio could have dunked at one time. Cuomo-never. He probably hurt his wrist carrying sacks of bribe money around Albany.

  15. no melo tonite

    Lance will start. Will Early crack the rotation tonight, or will Afflalo play a bunch of 3 with the second unit?

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