Even though 2019 feels like forever ago, there exist no single player Knicks fans enjoy dumping on more than Kristaps Porziņģis, the former Knicks “unicorn” who demanded out of New York and caused the Knicks to rebuild yet again with a broken roster. The two-and-a-half seasons KP was with the Dallas Mavericks provided Knicks fans with two games to circle every year. And you know what, they usually smacked the Mavs when they faced off. Beating the Mavs, and more importantly, KP was one of the tiny victories we Knicks fans could celebrate during losing seasons.
It didn’t take long for the Latvian bum to wear out his welcome in Dallas, the same way he wore it out in New York. He is now with the Washington Wizards, where players often go to die. Washington has been one of the most dysfunctional franchises of the last decade and has failed at pairing the right costar alongside their loyal centerpiece, Bradley Beal. KP will now try to play next to another ball-dominate superstar in Beal, while the Wizards become the third team in the young forward’s career to keep KP healthy and engaged.
And wouldn’t you know it, KP is already resting.
Kristaps Porzingis said he won’t play tonight vs. NYK in preseason finale. He said plan is to play in Washington’s regular season opener and tonight’s absence due to ankle injury is precautionary.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) October 14, 2022
PG Monte Morris: After the disastrous Spencer Dinwiddie experiment ended last season, the Wizards brought in a functional point guard to run the offense in Morris. He averaged 4.4 APG last season as the starter with the Nuggets. Morris is a high-culture guy, and was known as “Mr. Nugget” with Denver. The Wizards are in desperate need of stability and culture at this point, making the Morris trade this summer a perfect fit.
SG Will Barton: Bradley Beal is in Health and Safety protocols, as one of the few unvaccinated players, after catching COVID, again. In his place is Barton, who also came over from Denver in this summer’s trade. Barton provides the WIz with depth at the two-guard spot behind Beal, something they have lacked in the past. Barton has a nice all-around game, averaging 14.7 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 3.9 APG last season with the Nuggets. The WIz will need his playmaking abilities, as they have lacked an adequate point guard since losing Russell Westbrook. two years ago. Barton is a flamethrower from the corners, as he shot 44% on corner threes, besting every other Wizard who is still on the roster from last season. With Jamal Murray out last season, Barton led the Nuggets in drives at the rim (6.1).
SF Anthony Gill: Gill started the last game in Beal’s absence, as head coach Wes Unseld Jr. was forced to move the roster around. Gill bounced around international play after going undrafted in 2016. But he has found a home in Washington since 2020, where he has averaged 3.7 ppg. Last year he shot a scorching 54% from the three-point line on less than one attempt per game. But it must be why Unseld has him starting, as the Wizards desperately need spacing after their lone superstar is out.
PF Kyle Kuzma: Since arriving with the Wizards in 2021, he has shown that he's more than just the catch-and-shoot scorer the Lakers wanted him to be. Kuzma has evolved into a solid playmaker at 6’10. Something clicked last season with Kuzma, over his last 37 games, he averaged 20.6 PPG, 9.1 RPG, and 4.1 APG while shooting 47.1% from the field and 34.9% from three. Next to Beal and KP, Kuzma can turn into an efficient point forward, utilizing his playmaking to kickstart the offense when Beal’s shot isn’t falling. Last season, he was 11th among players 6’9” or taller in assisted points created per game with 9.6. Kuzma’s height and wingspan make him a dangerous facilitator in the open court, especially when paired with KP and Beal.
C Kristaps is out, leaving the door open for Rui Hachimura to start in his place. Hachimura is in his fourth season, and the time has come for him to start, but with the Wiz adding KP in the middle of last season, this complicates things. Starting Hachimura and KP together would be against the trend of the modern small-ball era. But with both players too talented to be on the bench, if both their three balls can hit (KP's career is 35% from three, Hachimura is 36% career from three), they could provide a long, athletic pairing up front.
No KP, no problem. While the Wizards project to be better than both the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers, the Knicks' last two pre-season opponents, head coach Tom Thibodeau will look to drop the experimentation seen in the last game and put a stamp on a new opponent. It's more likely Derrick Rose plays tonight after the unsuccessful experiment at point guard last game by Immanuel Quickley. As well, if Julius Randle is cooking, it’s easy to see Thibs leaving him in the game longer as well, to rebuild his confidence. Most of all, it’s a sure bet Jalen Brunson has a bounce-back game from the offense struggles from the last game. Knicks by 10.