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#4 New York Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis

With the fourth pick, the Knicks select Kristaps Porzingis.

Tommy Beer profile picture
Updated 10 months ago on
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Even though the New York Knicks endured their worst season in franchise history (a 17-win nightmare), they were unable to reap their rightful fruits. Instead of landing a top three pick, the Knicks were the only team in the draft lottery to move down, falling to #4 overall.

And unfortunately for the Knicks, the top-tier of talent in this draft was only three deep, according to most analysts. After Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Jahlil Okafor went off the board in succession, Phil Jackson and the Knicks were forced to chose from a handful of promising players with a mix of enticing upside and worrisome question marks.

In the end, the Knicks opted for little known Latvian Kristaps Porzingis.

Porzingis is obviously an extremely risky pick, and one that may ultimately determine Phil Jackson’s success or failure in New York. Assuming there is no trade coming, The Zen Master will be inextricably tied to the skinny 7-footer known as ‘Zinger.’

The upside is obvious. For those who have seen his YouTube highlights from game footage or workouts, Porzingis possesses an incredibly rare skill set for someone his size. He moves incredibly well and fluidly from baseline-to-baseline. This is important, as lateral quickness is imperative for big men hoping to survive defensively in today’s pick-and-roll heavy NBA.

Offensively, he dunks forcefully, yet makes it seems effortless. He needs to improve his low-block ability, but has the foundations of a solid post-up game.

Still, the most impressive skill Porzingis brings to the table is his feathery touch from the perimeter. Kristaps has a flawless form that would be impressive from a shooting guard, let alone a guy measuring in at 7’1. At his size, he’ll be able to effortlessly launch uncontested jumpers from all over the floor.

At just 19 years old, he hasn’t yet even scratched the surface of his vast potential.

Nonetheless, the tremendous downside here is also equally apparent. Fair or not, Porzingis will have to pay for the sins of failed European big men from years past. Will he be strong enough (both mentally and physically) to endure the constant pounding of an 82-game schedule? He will need to put on plenty of weight to deal with the rigors of dealing with opposing NBA big men. He’s never played the number minutes the Knicks will eventually ask him to play. He’s never dealt with the type of expectations and pressure he’ll face in New York.

Make no mistake, Phil Jackson can not afford to whiff on this pick. Unless the Knicks make a move in the future, the will not have another pick until 2017. (They traded away their second round pick this year, and both their first and second round pick next year).

For these reasons, and many more, the pick will be questioned. And rightly so. It may make or break the Phil Jackson era/experiment in NYC.

Clearly, Jackson must have seen something special to eschew safer picks in order to gamble his reputation on Porzingis. Now’s it’s on Zinger to prove the Zen Master right.

Tommy Beer is a Senior NBA Analyst and the Fantasy Sports Editor of Basketball Insiders, having covered the NBA for the last nine seasons.

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