I Was Wrong About Kristaps Porzingis (NY Knicks, NBA 2015-2016)

kristaps
Alright, I’ll admit it. I had it wrong on Kristaps Porzingis.

When he was first drafted, I took to this space and I derided the selection of Kristaps Porzingis, worried about the lanky 7-foot Latvian and how his game would translate to the NBA. Given that he had played in the Spanish league, there was little to go off of other than the reputation of the league and the word of scouts who had seen him previously. While many scouts said the kid had range and ball handling that was surprising for a man his size, the running scouting report on Porzingis was that he was going to be too soft to play on the inside, and too raw of a player to contribute immediately.

Well, 9 games into the season, Porzingis has proven the scouting report wrong. The Latvian has been the best part of the Knicks’ young season and has produced well beyond what we ever could have expected from him. Kristaps has been able to play within the paint, pull down important rebounds, put the ball on the floor when necessary and use his size, and most importantly, show a forcefulness and a strength when getting back up to put back an errant shot that wasn’t expected when he was getting looked at during the NBA combine.

In 9 NBA games, we’ve seen a young man who has been absolutely fearless during his transition to the NBA, getting up for put back dunks, jawing with opponents, and showing a passion and a swagger that never showed up on any film we had access to before the NBA Draft. In 9 games, Porzingis has flexed after massive dunks, has shown a passion that European players are “not supposed to have”, and has even walked off cold-blooded when he thought (as did the world), that he had hit a game-winning three-pointer with .01 seconds left.

Kristaps has 4 double-doubles in his past six games, throwing up 15 rebounds for good measure in his last game, kindly showcasing to people that were it necessary, he can be the big man the Knicks have needed since Patrick Ewing was last limping down the Garden floor. Not only did we get it wrong, but he’s doing the things he wasn’t supposed to do at such a level, an above-average level, might I add, that I cringe happily every time I watch a Knicks game.

Hell, even if it is a small sample size, the kid already has better numbers in his first 10 games than Dirk Nowitzki did during his. And Dirk was thought of in the same manner. We saw how that turned out. I’m not saying Porzingis is the next Dirk, not even close, but if he can continue to develop what seemingly is already an above-average skill-set, Porzingis might actually end up being the steal of this draft. Much to my dismay since the internet tends to have caches and visual documentation of the last time you were dead-wrong.

Honestly, the last time the Knicks had someone who was able to generate this much excitement at 7-feet tall was Patrick Ewing, so maybe we are placing a bit too much emphasis on early season success and Kristaps will come back to earth soon. Still, even if he does? Porzingis was probably wrongly evaluated by everyone who had a scouting report out on him. Sadder yet, it’s also a pattern that tends to happen when it comes to European players.

You can’t overlook the fact that Porzingis was evaluated wrongly in part because there’s a mindset that does exist in NBA circles where European players are either thought of as weak, or they’re incredibly overrated. Alex Len was supposed to be the European Dwight Howard, and that hasn’t exactly worked out yet. Jan Vesely was supposed to a Euro-version of Blake Griffin and is playing overseas now after not panning out. Furthering the point, everyone remembers Darko Milicic and how much of a bust he turned out to be after he was hyped to the moon and taken over what will probably be a potential Hall of Famer.

Porzingis isn’t that though. You can see it in how he’s able to maneuver in the block and use his size to manage to get a put-back, a rebound or back someone down to the basket. You can see it in how well he handles the ball both in the paint and outside of it. For all his rawness, Kristaps even moves well without the ball. These are legitimate traits that, while they may not make him a Hall of Famer, or even a “Franchise Cornerstone”, may make him a very viable and effective NBA player and give him the chance to eventually become that “Franchise Player” the organization is hoping he becomes.

I was one of the people who was down on the young man when he was drafted, but I was dead wrong. He’s talented, he’s above-average and nobody could have accounted for any of it. Moreover, he makes the Knicks watchable. The Latvian is even entertaining with all his scowls, his passion and his swagger. As unlikely as it sounds, a goofy, 7-foot tall Latvian is taking New York, which has always been a basketball mecca, and endearing himself to the infamously fickle Garden crowd not only with his personality, but a style of play that no fan truly expected. Had you said we would have gotten this production a year or two from now? Knicks fans would have taken it.

To see that the guy they gambled on is the genuine article 9 games into the season?

That’s a godsend.

Maybe the Knicks got this right. Maybe they did know what they were doing. Maybe Phil Jackson was actually wrong when it came to the big fella’ and we all just needed to trust the process.

Maybe they just got lucky and stumbled into a pot of gold. I mean, a broken clock is right two times a day, you know?

The fact of the matter is that Kristaps Porzingis is as polished an NBA basketball player as you could have hoped for. He’s long, he uses his size effectively and he plays with passion.

He’s answered every question, every critic and every doubt.

In doing so, he’s made some people, myself included, look very foolish.

Tags: , , ,