Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks
When the New York Knicks selected Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft, he heard loud boos from Knicks fans in attendance. Additionally, many pundits criticized Phil Jackson’s selection since well-known prospects like Emmanuel Mudiay and Justise Winslow were still available.
What these critics failed to realize is that Porzingis is the real deal. The 7’3 forward from Latvia shined during his pre-draft workouts, displaying his unique skill set and ridiculous measurables. Those who did their homework – studying Porzingis’ film and watching his draft workouts – saw a potential star who had a very high ceiling and the physical tools to be a matchup nightmare in the NBA.
On draft night, when I sent out a tweet complimenting the Knicks’ decision to go for the “dare-to-be-great” pick in Porzingis, my mentions filled up with upset New Yorkers – some calling me an idiot and others accusing me of being sarcastic. That’s how upset and insecure Knicks fans were about this pick.
Well, through the first month of the season, Porzingis has silenced his critics and turned those doubters into believers. He has also exceeded all expectations. Even his biggest supporters didn’t expect him to be this good, this quickly.
Porzingis has posted very impressive numbers, proving that he’s much more NBA-ready than many projected. Through 17 games, the 20-year-old is averaging 13.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in just 27.2 minutes per game. His per-100-possessions numbers are incredible: 25.1 points, 17.1 rebounds, 3.5 blocks and 1.4 steals. In other words, good things are happening when Porzingis is on the floor.
With his strong early play, Porzingis is in the Rookie of the Year conversation and his numbers stack up well against his peers. He is currently ranked third among rookies in scoring, second in rebounding, second in blocks and second in double-doubles. This is even more impressive when you consider he’s only sixth among rookies in minutes per game.
But it’s not just his numbers that have turned heads, it’s how he has filled the stat sheet. Many of his plays excite the fan base and give the Knicks momentum, such as his put-back dunks and monster blocks.
The advanced analytics also show just how effective Porzingis has been this season. As of right now, the Knicks’ forward is ranked first among all rookies in Real Plus-Minus, second in Estimated Wins Added, second in Value Added, second in Rebound Rate and third in Player Efficiency Rating.
Not bad for a guy who was considered a “raw project” just a few months ago. It’s safe to say there aren’t any fans in New York booing Porzingis these days.
– Alex Kennedy