New York Knicks

One major theme surrounding the contest tonight between the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers revolves around Kristaps Porzingis and Jahlil Okafor.

New York Knicks (8-10)
Philadelphia 76ers (1-18)
NBA, Tonight, 7:30 PM, MSG Network
Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, New York

By Robby Sabo

1-18. This the sad state of affairs the franchise of the Philadelphia 76ers are currently mixed up in. At least they defeated the very inefficient Kobe Bryant the Los Angeles Lakers Monday night.

For the New York Knicks, that win was a good thing. Welcoming in a win-less team at 0-19 would have added pressure Derek Fisher would much rather live without.

Getting back to Philly for a moment, what’s incredibly sad is their overall level of respectability. I mean, just how many bust Lottery Picks does general manager Sam Hinkie get to roll out and through before ownership actually understands what’s truly going on here?

Obviously they didn’t figure it out prior to the 2015 NBA Draft which saw Hinkie take Duke big man Jahlil Okafor.

While nobody was up-in-arms about the selection, many thought D’Angelo Russell was going to be the next Philly lotto man. The best bet was on the Lakers selecting the big man and Russell falling to No. 3.

It didn’t happen, which was OK for the 76ers.

Now, however, the sentiment has changed loud and clear: Young Kristaps Porzingis has already shown more promise than the kid who was recently caught on video throwing haymakers in the Boston streets.

Admittedly, it’s not completely responsible to label Porzingis the better player already (not even 20 games into their NBA careers). But let’s leave the word responsible for others. As far as the here and now is concerned, KP has more talent oozing out his left pinky than Okafor in his entire body.

Both guys can score. There’s no question about this. As a 19-year old, the Duke product is averaging 17.5 points on .462 from the floor and 8.2 rebounds per game. His talent on the low block is only equaled by few.

In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a 19-year old post player who’s every scored like this in the NBA.

Porzingis can score too. His 13.7 points on .425 from the floor and 9.3 rebounds per contest are already more than anybody could’ve envisioned on draft day. (Those boos reigning down from Knicks fans at the Barclays Center weren’t a hidden salute by the way. Just in case you were wondering.) Porzingis has showcased enough grit, toughness and strength to at least hang with the big boys of the NBA in the paint.

What separates these two guys is two-fold.

One is in relation to overall attitude on and off the floor between the two; and two, by way of defensive wherewithal.

Obviously, the Okafor street fight incident allowed Porzingis’s stellar on and off-court attitude to shine through even further. The young Latvian has proved to be more than just a talented rookie. He’s actually been a coach’s dream.

Everything he does and says screams professional. It forces others to believe stardom is written all over his name.

Defensively though, is where the complete shock comes into play. This kid, who most thought would be a project riding the bench for the first two seasons of his NBA career, is now averaging 1.9 blockers per game. This incredibly ranks him ninth in the entire Association.

Okafor, while he has mounted a pretty impressive 1.6 blocks a night, isn’t nearly the same difference maker KP is. Porzingis roams the defense end in a way Marcus Camby used to. His weak side contesting his only secondarily impressive compared to the speed for which he moves his 7’3” frame.

Until further notice, the Knicks picked up the better prospect between the two last June in Porzingis. He simply does more things on the basketball court.

And believe it or not – as most Knicks fans are still pinching themselves – they caught a break in obtaining this kid.

What’s beautiful is both kids can settle it on the court tonight. Under the bright lights of Broadway, at Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks will host the Philadelphia 76ers. Tip-off comes your way at 7:30 PM ET.

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