The FanRag Sports Offseason Rankings counts down the top 100 NBA players throughout the offseason. Methodology, voters and the full countdown are all detailed in the introductory post.
Kristaps Porzingis enters his third year in the NBA, and his third year in a New York Knicks offense that is constantly alternating between discombobulated and dysfunctional. The Knicks have been struggling through an offense that shifted from Triangle to trying any angle to get points. It’s suffered from the black hole that is Carmelo Anthony. It had Derrick Rose at the point, who reached the point of becoming arguably the worst passing starting point guard in the league last year.
It was really bad, and Porzingis suffered. The team might even be worse this year, but there might be hope that the offense will start highlighting Porzingis… finally.
I see no world, other than injury, where Porzingis’s floor is lowered. He is a year more mature, and he’ll be getting more touches in an offense that should feature fewer ‘Melo dribbles, more passing, and most importantly–more Porzingis. Some will depend on the starting point guard situation. But even with Ron Baker and Frank Ntilikina, that will be better because they will understand that their job is to keep the Unicorn involved.
Porzingis’s ceiling could certainly rise. His usage percentage was just 24.3 last year, and he still scored 18.1 points per game. If (and when) the Knicks either trade Anthony or waive him, Porzingis will get a lot more shots and minutes. His rebounding fell off from 9.3 per 36 minutes to 7.9 last year, but that is also to blame for the overall weirdness of the Knicks’ play. He very easily could average 20 and 10 with two blocks as well (2.2 per 36 minutes for his career). The list of players who have done that in history is impressive, and if Porzingis can add his name to it, he’d be a top-25 player.
Porzingis can shoot; 42.5 percent of his shots come off passes, according to NBA.com, and he has a 51.8 effective field goal percentage on those.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not trying to dismiss him as a shooter, but there seems to be an impression that he’s only a shooter, and that is inaccurate. He’s a versatile scorer. He has a decent pull-up (42.2 effective field goal percentage), and 32.4 percent of his looks come within 10 feet, with a 57.5 field goal percentage on those attempts.
He also created about a quarter of his buckets by himself. He shot 56.3 percent at the rim, near the league the average. Not bad on a team that averaged only 8.6 3s per game (meaning defenses could stack the lanes and make scoring at the rim that much tougher).
Porzingis has the skills. Now he just needs the chance to spread his wings and fly. Oh wait, that’s a Pegasus.
Porzingis gave up .914 points per possession when he was the primary defender on the play, which for a team as vomit-inducingly awful as the Knicks were last year, is impressive. In what is increasingly the most important category at Synergy for a big, “pick-and-roll ballhandler (big defender),” K.P. ranked in the 74th percentile. Again, that’s impressive when you consider what was around him. He was covering for Derrick Rose. That’s a lot of covering.
No one will name Ron Baker to the All-Defense team, but last year the Knicks’ defense gave up 7.3 fewer points per 100 possessions with Baker and Unicorn than Rose and the mythical beast.
Finally, shooters shot 11.3 percent below their season averages within six feet of the rim when Porzingis was the closest defender. That’s an elite number in what might be the most reliable defensive indicator we have. K.P. is a really good defender and should get better.
Watch this. Just watch it!
It’s hard to believe I’m saying this about a New York athlete, but Porzingis is probably underrated.