Making numerous improvements in his game, Kristaps Porzingis has taken over as the new face of the New York Knicks.
While it has perhaps happened quicker than many Knicks’ fans anticipated, one thing has been made abundantly clear over the past few games: this is Kristaps Porzingis’ team.
Sure, Carmelo Anthony is still the emotional leader in the locker room and has the best career resume. Sure, the team is loaded with veterans like Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Courtney Lee. Sure, Porzingis is only 21 years old.
However, there is no denying that at this moment in time, when the Knicks are on the floor, Kristaps is undeniably their main focus.
Porzingis has now taken at least 15 shots in each of the Knicks’ last five games, and it’s no surprise the offense has massively improved as a result. New York has gone 3-2 during that five game stretch, failing to score 100 points in only their loss to the Celtics and their dominant, 16-point victory over the Mavericks.
Thus, the Knicks vaulted up the standings after starting the season a putrid 2-4.
After using KP in just 20.6 percent of possessions in October, a four percent drop from his usage rate as a rookie, Porzingis is now up to a 26 percent usage rate in November, as he has become the focal point of the offense. Considering the matchup nightmare he creates for opposing defenders, it’s shocking that it took the Knicks this long to run their offense through him.
Nowhere was this more evident than Tuesday night against the Detroit Pistons, where Porzingis had a career high 35 points. KP was absolutely dominant against, using his full complement of skills to eviscerate the Pistons’ bigs on the offensive end.
Very few players at Porzingis’ size have the ability to catch and shoot, dribble drive, and post up with the prowess that he does, which made him very difficult to guard, even for an elite big man like Andre Drummond.
At 14.8 field goal attempts per game, Porzingis is now the second leading shooter on the Knicks behind Melo. The good news is that he’s also the team’s most efficient shooter. The 21-year-old has put together an astonishing 61.2 percent true shooting percentage this season, ranking second behind all sophomores in the NBA (min. 20 minutes per game).
This is nearly a 10 percent jump over Porzingis’ true shooting number of 51.8 percent last season, with an increase in his volume of shots. As a result, he is scoring over six points more per game than he did as a rookie.
The improvement is coming from the fact that Porzingis has virtually eliminated the long two from his shot chart. Last year, he took 141 shots between 16 feet and the three point line, nearly as many shots as he took between 10 and 15 feet. This season, he has continued to shoot the 10 to 15 footer at the same clip — between two and three shots per game — but has taken just eight total shots between 16 feet and the three point line.
Analytics experts have discovered in recent years that the long two is one of basketball’s least valuable shots, so Knicks’ fans should be encouraged that Porzingis is taking so few of them. Shot selection can often be an underrated among NBA players, but it remains one of the main drivers of team success.
Thankfully, it appears to be yet another skill Porzingis is developing.
Kristaps has very clearly put a ton of work into his offensive game this season, emerging as a far better player than he was as a rookie. His shot selection, mechanics, and execution are all much improved, and New York is reaping the benefits. It’s clear the offseason work is paying off for Porzingis, as he continues to emerge as a star in the NBA.