After a surprising trade on January 31st between the Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks, Kristaps Porzingis has changed teams. In an effort to position themselves to be able to bring in superstar free agents this coming summer, the Knicks exchanged their best asset in a down year for contracts that are either expiring or can be bought out, while also bringing in Dennis Smith Jr. to have a young group of players to fit around potential superstar signings. Opposite of what the perception around the Knicks organization has been since the turn of the millennium, they decided not to wallow in mediocrity. The first step in changing is breaking destructive habits. Let’s hope the Knicks can return to glory soon.
But the focus here is on Porzingis and what this trade means for him. At 23, he was in the conversation – and still is – as who’ll be the best among the players who are currently under 25 years old. Though there are better nicknames out there than “The Unicorn,” it does aptly describe his combination of skill and size. For perspective, he’s an inch shorter than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar but can handle like a small forward. Folks have compared him to Dirk Nowitzki, labeling him as an updated version of the all-time great. With Porzingis going to Dallas, he gets to be closer to the player he called his idol.
When healthy, Porzingis is an All-Star caliber player. He is an offensive weapon, capable of scoring from anywhere on the floor. However, because he is 23, there are still minute elements of professional basketball that he has yet to develop.
First, he holds onto the ball even more than Carmelo Anthony does, showing little propensity to get others involved. It is understandable for someone adept at one-on-one play to be more inclined to be the finisher of a play, especially because most scorers tend to be where the ball ends up. But 1.8 assists per game for someone as tall as he is and had the ball as much as he did is unacceptable. For perspective, Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams averages one assist per game, and he isn’t nearly the offensive weapon Porzingis is. (For what it’s worth, Dirk is at 2.4 assists over his career.)
This brings me to the second point of emphasis for Porzingis. To be as athletic as he is, he is an average rebounder. Dirk is a lot of good things, but an explosive athlete is not one of them. Yet from 2000-2008, Nowitzki averaged at least eight rebounds a game, something Porzingis has yet to do once in his brief career. He may have guard skills, but his height suggests that he should be more mindful of the glass. The NBA’s seventh all-time leading scorer who can barely jump over a phone book can get eight boards a game, surely Porzingis can as well.
Everything about Porzingis suggests he will rise to the level of expectations he earned after proving he could play. He is tough, and there is a competitive fire to him that seems to push him to want to be as great as he can be. That fire also probably spurred him to question the direction of the Knicks – something that is totally fair for him to do. Now in Dallas, he has an established coach, another young player to grow with and a living legend to learn how to be a superstar from. May this change of scenery and new environment be what Kristaps Porzingis needs to grow into the player he wants to be.
Poemer. 8-time Hug Champion. Pick&Roll Enthusiast. Guardian of Logic and Tact. Apocalypse’s good Brother. Collector of muted souls for Mt. Filtermanjaro.