Next Up: Kristaps Porzingis

There are very few guys in the NBA that eclipse the 7’0 mark. There are even fewer guys in the NBA that reach the 7’3” mark. There’s only one guy in the NBA that hits that 7’3 mark and can shoot 3’s. Kristaps Porzingis, the fourth pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, showed monstrous potential in his first year in the league with the New York Knicks. At the age of 20, he averaged 14.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, and 1.9 BPG to go along with 1.3 APG and 0.7 SPG. Straight out of Latvia, Porzingis was booed on draft night when the Knicks took a guy that not too many casual fans knew about. He quickly silenced the haters as he showed glimpses of just how good he could be at that height with the explosive dunks and blocked shots, along with draining threes at a 34 percent mark. Not bad from a 7’3 monster of a kid who is barely old enough to get into a bar. Entering his sophomore season, with the new additions of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Courtney Lee surrounding him, Porzingis has all the tools to leap into the All-Star conversation.

Porzingis finished second in Rookie of the Year last season, only behind Karl-Anthony Towns, who is already on his way to being an elite player. Much like Towns, Porzingis has proven to be the prototypical big that can stretch the floor and also defend the paint. In the modern NBA that puts so much emphasis on finding bigs that are able to shoot the mid-range or even extend to the three-point line, Porzingis has set himself apart. After being a focal point for opposing defenses along with Carmelo Anthony last season, the additions of three more starting-caliber players should open things up a bit more for Porzingis. After playing most of his minutes at the power forward position along side Robin Lopez, Porzingis could see a significant amount of time at the center position this season. Going up against traditional centers like Roy Hibbert or DeAndre Jordan could be a god-send for the Zinger because of the speed mismatch. Porzingis is very comfortable playing on the perimeter, and traditional bigs may not have the ability to keep up with him when he ventures out to three-point territory.

The mystery that was Kristaps Porzingis has turned out to be one of the most pleasant surprises from the 2015 Draft. After Knick fans were, lets just say, unenthusiastic about the pick, Porzingis has turned into a must-see talent. Whether he is throwing down a vicious put-back dunk or draining three-straight long-range shots, Porzingis has become a fan-favorite in New York and around the league.

However, Porzingis only averaged 28.4 minutes per game last year. With Lopez now in Chicago and the rest of the front court players giving little upside, Porzingis should expect to have more playing time coming his way. We will have to wait and see how his body holds up to a heavier workload this season, and he could certainly stand to put on a few pounds of muscle to fill out his frame, but Porzingis seems primed for another impressive season.

In his sophomore year, Porzingis will be focused on solidifying the things that he does well. The points per game may go up a touch, which will certainly be a welcome site for the Knicks, but more importantly will be how Porzingis can increase his efficiency from the field. He shot just 42 percent from the field and that is far below what most people would call efficient. Where Porzingis can really improve is with his shot selection. Adding Rose and Lee should take some of the pressure to force up tough shots off of him, but in his second year, after such a successful individual season in his rookie year, Porzingis should be able to better pick his spots and boost that field goal percentage.

Overall, at 7’3” and just 21 years old, the potential is there for Porzingis. His combination of elite shot blocking, size, and shooting touch are almost non-existent throughout the rest of the league. He has massive expectations that he has to live up to for the Knicks and their fans, but after his performance as a rookie, those who doubted his talent when the Knicks picked him are starting to see glimpses of what he can do. He will have to become much more consistent over the course of an 82-game season, but the instincts are there. In a 2015 draft class that is beginning to look like one of the better ones in recent memory, Porzingis is in the upper echelon along with KAT. Playing in a mega media market like NYC will put the pressure on him to perform, and there will certainly be growing pains along the way, but what we have seen from KP so far is that he is ready to contribute and become a key player for this Knicks team. After all, you don’t get a nickname like GodZingis unless there is some serious hype around you as a player.

Click here to view other entries in the Next Up series

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