Kristaps Porzingis, who notably, is still a Knick, continued to show last season what we were already convinced of: He is the future of this franchise.
After Phil Jackson’s firing and the trade scare that preceded it, the fences thankfully appear to be mended between the Knicks and their young star. He skipped his exit interview, threw shade at Phil and was open about his displeasure with the direction of the franchise. And, like, who can blame him?
But alas, he won’t be going anywhere, and we should all be pretty happy about that.
The Unicorn showed us all how dynamic he is at both ends of the floor. He looked far more confident putting the ball on the deck and driving to the bucket than he did a year ago, while also being a constant threat to score from deep.
He averaged 18.1 PPG shooting 45% from the field, 34% from three-point range and 78% from the free throw line. His grabbed 7.2 rebounds a game, collecting 5.5% of available offensive boards and 18.2% of defensive ones. He blocked 2 shots a game to go along with 1.5 assists and 0.7 steals.
These numbers, we can assume, would have been better had he played all 82 games, and had he been completely healthy for every game he did play. An Achilles injury suffered midseason really slowed down the lanky Latvian, though his decline in production was not as steep as you may have remembered.
With the exception of his three-point shooting, most of his numbers (scoring, rebounding, shooting percentage from inside the arc) had recovered by March.
Regardless, KP continued to be a spectacular shot blocker and rim protector...and I do mean spectacular.
only a matter of time until Porzingis eats a shot attempt mid-air and spits the leather remains at the opponent pic.twitter.com/v80X8Mxypl— Las Wobgas (@World_Wide_Wob) March 13, 2017
He more than held his own defending the rim when he was locked up on an opponent’s big, and looking back at the tape, he did a much better job of manning the paint when he was switched onto an opposing forward or guard than I remembered.
RT BleacherReport: Kristaps with the block, Porzingis with the slam! pic.twitter.com/HRMgxwaEc3— Steven Candelaria (@StevoCandelaria) December 29, 2016
According to NBA.com’s defensive stat sheet for KP, he allowed 50.7% of shots defended within 6 feet of the basket, compared to the combined shooting percentages of the players he defended from that range, 61.9%. That’s a differential of -11.3%, which is pretty phenomenal.
The issue with KP on the defensive side of the ball is that he ends up on the perimeter more than other bigs do. And despite his incredible athleticism and wingspan, yeah, being 7’3 and having to defend someone much shorter and quicker than you can’t possibly be an easy proposition.
These interesting Hornacek quotes in a New York Post article may help explain:
Coach Jeff Hornacek expanded on the issue after Friday’s shootaround at TD Garden, saying it could be a European adjustment and a technique issue, with difficulty bending into a defensive crouch.
“The biggest thing we emphasize with KP — which is tough when you’re [7-foot-3] — is bending your knees,’’ Hornacek said. “If you’re standing straight up and a guy makes a move, [his] first reaction when you bend is to get your arms out and you use too much hands. At times, KP, it’s difficult for a guy that tall to do that. But when he does it, he takes up a lot of space.
“We’ve emphasized [to him] if you’re [facing] a guard and you use a 7-3 guy, bent down with arms out — 7-foot-3 and wide, it’s hard to go around. He’s doing a better job at that. He’s got quick enough feet to do it. Sometimes it’s technique — a little sideways in his stance. He’s gotten better. He was good the other night [against the Nets].’’
The piece goes on to explain that the increased physicality of the NBA game compared to European one, the fact that officials will be more generous when calling fouls over there and the emphasis of offensive fundies to young players instead of stressing the importance of being sound on both ends as they would in North America may also have something to do with it. KP seems like a pretty rugged dude on both ends, but I just found those pieces of information to be interesting.
He may never be a great perimeter defender but I don’t think that really matters. If he continues to improve on his already impressive ability to control the paint as he did between his freshman and sophomore campaigns, yeah, he’ll be fine.
I don’t think this is even a question. The Detroit game, obviously.
He dropped a career-high 35 points, 13-22 from the field, 3-7 from deep and 6-7 from the free throw line. He picked up 7 rebounds, had an assist a block and a steal in 40 minutes of play. The Knicks, by the way, won that November 16th meeting 105-102.
That alley oop from Brandon Jennings still gives me the chills:
But does any of that even matter? Like, he made a whole bunch of really evil faces like this:
(Those are probably two different angles of the same shot. Don’t care, still epic).
OK, last one:
I would very much be here for evil snarl KP.
Also, honorable mention for his performance just two nights before the Detroit game, where he scored 24 points to share the game-high with Carmelo Anthony, and picked up 11 rebounds in a win against the Mavericks.
They almost traded him.
Future in New York
Yikes, just a few weeks ago, his future as Knick was very much in question.
The important thing about his future in New York is that he has one. He is the future and the present of the franchise, and any transactions the Knicks make should have his timeline squarely in mind. The current young core of him, Willy Hernangomez and Frank Ntilikina (and Tim Hardaway Jr.) will largely be managed with him in mind. Hornacek shed a bit of light on that by finally admitting that KP is ready to be his offensive leader.
We love you, Kristaps.