The stakes for Kristaps Porzingis are extreme.
He’s the first top 5 draft pick the team has picked since 1986 (Kenny Walker for those playing at home). He joins the team on the back of one of the worst seasons in recent Knicks’ history (and that’s saying something).
And he’s been clearly designated as the future of the franchise – Melo’s knees can only hold up so long, and there’s not likely to be another high draft pick until 2017 at the earliest. The eggs have well and truly been placed in the Porzingis basket.
But even as they took him, most Knicks fans had next to no idea what to expect from him. Porzingis is tall, foreign and white, reviving memories Milicic, Tskitishvili and Lampe. He remains a mystery to most.
From the pre-season and summer league we’ve begun to learn about Porzingis’ game. He’s by no means a finished product, but here’s what we’ve learned so far.
- He’s got a dynamite pick-and-pop game.
What do you do with a seven-footer who can shoot from distance? You put him in pick-and-pop situations. In limited action so far, Porzingis has already shown an impressive ability to knock down long jumpers off the pop. This will be particularly effective when he plays with the speedier ball handlers like Jerian Grant and Langston Galloway. Below he sets a pick for Melo and nails a jumper.
- He can’t post up….yet.
All off-season we’ve heard that it will take a year for Porzingis to bulk up enough in his legs to be able to bang with NBA men on the low block. On the few occasions that he’s found himself on the block with the ball in the preseason this has been painfully obvious. He’s been forced away from the bucket or pushed into low-percentage shots. Against Boston he showed he can put the ball on the floor and make a good move.
Big ups to postingandtoasting.com for that vine.
Be patient. This will get better with time (and squats. Lots of squats).
- His off-the-ball defensive rotations are awful
If there’s one thing that seems to always take rookies time to get the hang of at the NBA level, it’s rotating properly on defence. More than once this pre-season Porzingis has rotated over to no-one in particular and has often found himself on the perimeter. Not where you want a seven-footer on defence. But again, rookies man. The worst.
- But his one-on-one is very good
The most impressive part of Porzingis’ defence has been his ability to switch on to smaller players and stay with them. Check out at 54 seconds below as he rotates over to easily shut down a Kemba Walker drive
He shows impressive foot-speed, particularly when moving sideways. He also uses his length to catch shots at the rim even when he might not be in the best position. Straight up on bigger players he shows a surprising amount of strength to send them sideways and catch their shots, as we can see below in his summer league work on fellow rookie Jahlil Okafor.
- And he’ll get minutes
So far Porzingis has earned between 17 and 21 minutes a game, and Coach Fisher has come out and said he’ll start on opening night. 20 minutes a night, some with the starters will be perfect to ensure his ongoing development.
All in all it’s a promising start. With starter’s minutes, and patient support, he just might be able to fulfill his potential and drag the Knicks back to relevance. And if he doesn’t, at least we’ll always have his rad cornrows.