When New York Knicks president Phil Jackson used the fourth overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft on power forward/center Kristaps Porzingis, he received a ton of flack and criticism. At the time Porzingis was an unknown to the average American basketball fan coming out of his native Latvia. And at 7’3″, 240 lbs., most Knicks fans could only reminisce about the 1999 NBA Draft when New York selected center Frederic Weis whose basketball claim to fame was getting dunked on by Vince Carter in the 2000 Summer Olympics. On that fateful night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York at the 2015 NBA Draft, Knicks fans were ready to erupt with disgust as rumors swirled about New York possibly selecting Porzingis, and when it happened, there was an echo of boos that rained down from the rafters there.
But the skepticism for Porzingis quickly turned to optimism as he showed off his skills as a passer, along with his post game in the Las Vegas Summer League. In Porginzis’ first regular season game with the Knicks, he went for 16 points and 5 rebounds in a 122-97 victory for the Knicks over the Milwaukee Bucks. As a rookie Porzingis would average 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds which included 14 games where he scored at least 20 points, while also recording 21 double-doubles. Porzingis would go on to be named to the NBA’s All-Rookie team while he also gave the Knicks hope as the same fans that wanted him run out of town when he was drafted, were now buying up his merchandise in the boatloads.
Porzingis has gone two show that he isn’t a one-hit wonder as he has instead opted to display his talents to remain on Broadway for the coming years. This season through 15 games, Porzingis is averaging 20.7 points and 7.3 rebounds has been highlighted by a 35-point performance on November 16 against the Detroit Pistons. And even though that small forward Carmelo Anthony is the highest paid player on the Knicks roster this season at roughly $24.5 million, he is being pushed by Porzingis to be the face of the franchise.
Porzingis was 19-years old when the Knicks drafted him and Jackson, along with some international basketball scouts compared his game to that of Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki is a native of Germany and he has gone on to be arguably the greatest European born player in NBA history. Like Nowitzki, Porzingis has the potential to be a quality post player, while he is also a solid rebounder as well as a passer. And like Porzingis, Nowitzki, had his doubters when he came to the United States, but it would not take him that long to amaze folks with his game.
Porzingis has the potential to be a player that can average 25 points and 10 rebounds per contest for the Knicks, while his passing skills are ideal for the triangle offense that Jackson loves to run. Jackson has taken some heat during his tenure as president of the Knicks for his inability to turn the Knicks into a winner, but he appears to have made a slam dunk with Porzingis.
Anthony is 32-years of age and with a bad knee, the Knicks should not count on him to be an All-Star caliber player for that many more seasons. Porzingis on the other hand is young and doesn’t realize how good that he can be as the sky is the limit for him. And as the Knicks are still trying to find their identity in the early stages of this NBA season, head coach Jeff Hornacek has been running more of the offense through Porzingis. Anthony is averaging 23.3 points per game, while Porzingis is checking in with 20.7 per contest which gives you an idea that times are changing at Madison Square Garden.
Porzingis represents hope for the Knicks and their fans as he is indeed a building block for the present and the future as he stands to be the team’s most important draft pick since Patrick Ewing.