Kristaps Porzingis Is Stomping on All Your Tiny American Villages

— November 9th 2017

With Carmelo Anthony out of the picture, Kristaps Porzingis is finally the Knicks’ no. 1—and he’s taking advantage of it.

By Dylan Hughes

The 2015-17 New York Knicks had an identity crisis.

Well, maybe they have always had an identity crisis. But since the arrival of Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks have been stuck in basketball purgatory–not good enough for the playoffs, but not good enough for a top pick in the draft.

Having Carmelo Anthony compounded that. With Anthony, a shell of his former superstar self, New York was never going to make the playoffs with him as a featured player. They did make him a featured player, of course, minimizing Porzingis’s role and impact. Anthony led the team in usage percentage last season, and even Derrick Rose–also well past his prime–was used more than Porzingis.

This season, however, with New York’s roster shaped around Porzingis, the Baby Faced Assassin 2.0 is unleashing his fury on the league.

Shooting

Porzingis’s most unique skill is his shooting. As a seven-footer, almost no one in the league has the length to contest his shot— especially if that defender has to recover to Kristaps once he gets the ball. But where he can become even more deadly is in the post, where he can take advantage of his height even more on smaller defenders.

Last season, Porzingis scored just 0.81 points per possession on post-ups at 2.5 possessions per game—30th percentile. This season, that number is up to 1.02 points per possessions on 6.4 possessions per game—73rd percentile (but best of anyone with more than 4.5 possessions per game).

Here is Porzingis with Myles Turner—a fellow young, sharpshooting big man—trying to handle him in the post.

It’s hard to critique Turner’s defense there. He kept his feet moving and had his hand right in Porzingis’s face. Kristaps just pulled right up over him.

Paul Millsap, one of the best defensive forwards in the league, has not even a slight chance of altering this shot.

No chance here, either.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a blossoming young forward, could only hope he had some good karma coming from the Basketball Gods here. He didn’t.

The midrange has been a sweet spot for Porzingis in 2017 thus far, with 55 percent of his total shots coming from that distance, per Cleaning The Glass. He is hitting on 53 percent of those shots, 85th percentile among bigs.

Agility

Another thing that makes Porzingis so unique is how well he moves for his size. He is able to maneuver into spaces that are typically reserved for guards and wings. He is a constant threat off the ball.

Not keeping track of Porzingis is defensive suicide.

Defense

Porzingis is also nearly impossible to score on at the rim. Lance Stephenson, back in his home state, was (born) ready to posterize the city’s new poster child. Kristaps was ready to shut him down.

Teams are shooting 6.8 percent worse at the rim with Porzingis on the floor, according to Cleaning The Glass, and are scoring 6.5 points worse per possession than with him off the floor.

He’s nowhere near perfect on that end, however. If things don’t go as planned, Porzingis often gets lost.

This is also Enes Kanter’s fault, as Dwight Howard was his man. But Kristaps needs to recognize that Kanter is not a good defender and is going to need help on occasion.

Kristaps makes a switch here when he didn’t need to, and it leads to an easy bucket.

That was just a defensive mess as a whole. No one knew who they had, leading to unnecessary help on the ball-handler (Jeremy Lamb) and a wide open Marvin Williams—who was initially Porzingis’s man.

Lapses here and there, especially for a young player, ultimately mean nothing. The important thing is, Porzingis is a freaking star. At age 22, Porzingis has cemented himself as a to-be perennial All-Star and (probable) top 15 NBA player. Expected development plus his height, length and skill makes his ceiling even higher.

What will he eventually become? No one knows.

And we can’t wait to find out.

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