Karl-Anthony Towns has played incredibly well so far this season and has shown almost no weaknesses in his game, which is almost unheard of for an NBA rookie. But my pick for Rookie of the Year, at this point in the season, goes to Kristaps Porzingis.
Through 25 games, Porzingis is averaging 13.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, one assist, and 1.8 blocks per game, while shooting 44.1 percent from the field, 35.4 percent from three and 84.2 percent on free-throws. These averages aren’t quite as good as Towns’ but per 36 minutes, they aren’t far off. Porzingis made his living early this season with some impressive put-back dunks, but has shown over the last few weeks that he has a well-rounded game as well.
In a recent showdown against Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks, Porzingis poured in 28 points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal and two blocks. He put his full arsenal on display (though his rebounding was off) and showed strong defensive awareness in clutch moments. His performance drew a lot of attention and praise, most notably from Nowitzki and Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle.
“It’s more than fair,” Nowitzki said of Porzingis being compared to him. “He’s probably way ahead of the curve … he’s way better than I was at 20.”
“Porzingis is a special player, and the city of New York has Phil Jackson to thank for that one,” Carlisle said. “There were others who didn’t have the [guts] to pull the trigger on that one. … “He’s a great young player, who has a chance to be truly special.”
The thing about Porzingis is that we haven’t even seen the best he has to offer yet. A lot of his production comes from playing with a lot of energy off the ball. The Knicks run actions for him in limited situations and have only recently started expanding his offensive role. However, it should be noted that he has turned in some poor performances recently, which tends to happen to young rookies who are adapting to the NBA’s rigorous 82-game schedule.
Karl-Anthony Towns is a star and may go down as the best player from this draft. However, Porzingis has also shown that he is a cornerstone piece and can impact the game on both ends of the court, and has done so within a more confined role than Towns so far.
– Jesse Blancarte