ny knicks bleacher report
In the days and weeks leading up to the NBA draft, nobody had any idea where president of basketball operations Phil Jackson would turn with the New York Knicks’ fourth overall pick.A proven college player, maybe, or possibly even a trade downbut if there was one certainty, it was that they’d steer clear of Kristaps Porzingis, the 19-year-old lanky project who was at least two years away from truly competing at the NBA level. With Carmelo Anthony entering his 13th season and Jackson himself at age 69, the Knicks would surely draft a more pro-ready prospect.Surprise!Jackson went the unexpected route in taking Porzingis, which either irked or excited Anthony, depending on whom you believe. It’s a given that the 7’1″, 230-pound prospect doesn’t have the girth to physically compete with NBA big men right away at 20 years old on opening night. But unlike last season, futility won’t be rewarded with a high draft pick in 2016the Knicks have the Andrea Bargnani trade to thank for that.So with winning back in focus, all that matters for Porzingis in his rookie season is his fit within head coach Derek Fisher’s scheme.Right now, Porzingis’ role on the Knicks will predominantly come as a floor spacer, andat least in glimpseshe should show some promise. He shot 35.9 percent from the international arc with Sevilla this past season, including 45.9 percent in 16 Eurocup games.Right off the bat, defenses will need to respect his range. He put it on display with Sevilla, particularly in this October matchup against Virtus Roma:That’s a trait that won’t take any adjustment. Porzingis is a knockdown shooter, and, at the least, he can provide the Knicks with some deep balls next season.You’ll also notice from that video a number of acrobatic, above-the-rim slams in transition. That’s the wrinkle that sets the Latvian apart from the Andrea Bargnanis anNikoloz Tskitishvilis of draft lorea second dimension to his offensive attack.The Knicks struggled to add tempo to the offense last year, finishing 28th in pacedespite constant pleading from Fisher to speed up the offense. Porzingis runs the floor exceptionally well for a player of his size and could help change the pace, should Jose Calderon, Jerian Grant or Langston Galloway look to get out on the fast break.The triangle is important to Jackson and the Knicks, and while he’s not a perfect fit, the Latvian will show some promise. His ability to step out makes him versatile in the system, as he can drill threes and mid-range looks. His prowess at knocking down jumpers off screens and scoring off cuts to the rim also works in his favor.But in his first NBA campaign, Porzingis’ deficiencies will glue him to the bench for longer stretches than he is on the floor. This is what the Knicks signed up for.There are no two ways about it: Opponents will manhandle Porzingis in the paint. Starting at the seven-minute, 40-second markof DraftExpress’ scouting breakdown, you can see him get roughed up while playing overseas.The problem is only going to get worse in the NBA, and it’s not going away until the rookie adds some bulk to his frame, which will take years.We brought up his triangle fit, and while there’s reason for optimism, there’s still plenty of concerns in the early stages of his career.He is not a back-to-the-basket scorer. He has the quickness to beat a big off the dribble, but more often, he’ll get walled off by a stronger, wider player before a possession goes to die.He’s also a subpar playmaker. In league play this season, he committed 45 turnovers while logging just 15 assists in 34 games. And while the triangle is a system comprised completely off reads, Porzingis’ general feel and basketball IQ are questionable.Defensively, his slender frame will hurt him again. He won’t be able to contain bigger power forwards. Fisher could consider cross-matching him onto the opposing team’s small forward for spurts. If Porzingis is playing with the starters, Anthony could then switch onto the opposing 4, which would help conserve Porzingis’ energy as well. He’s shown glimpses of great shot-blocking ability, but needs to round out his defensive game.As you can tell by looking at the slim forward, natural maturation and strength training will play gigantic roles in his NBA progression. If handled correctly, they could even erase most of his current flaws.But while Porzingis provides the upside that few others in this year’s class can, he’ll need to survive a modest year in 2015-16. He can be a rotation player, but topping 15 to 18 minutes per game seems like a stretch.If he can post eight or nine points per night while shooting the three-ball better than league average, New York should chalk Year 1 up as a victory. It’ll also be important to monitor his defensive progression, as there’s no telling right now which position he’s best suited to guard.It may not be the prosperous rookie season that Knicks fans are wishing for, but if Porzingis uses it as a stepping stone toward the progression that several experts foresee’It’ll be well worth the wait.Follow me on Twitter at @JSDorn6.Stats from Basketball-Reference.com and RealGM.
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