New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis reached an impressive milestone on Saturday and joined a group of elite players.
February’s NBA trade deadline was a metaphor for the dramatic change in the league’s overall needs in their primary big man. The Brooklyn Nets couldn’t even get a first round pick for former All-Star center Brook Lopez, and the Philadelphia 76ers couldn’t give away a 21-year-old Jahlil Okafor. Nobody wants the ordinary big man anymore.
They want a unicorn. A young big man with a guard’s skill set. Fortunately for the New York Knicks, they already stumbled upon their mythical creature. Kristaps Porzingis mercifully fell into Phil Jackson’s lap with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 draft, and he’s been dazzling us all ever since.
The 7-footer kept that trend going on Saturday night with a feat so unique it had been accomplished previously by only 11 other players. During the second quarter of New York’s loss to the Detroit Pistons, Porzingis made his 100th three-point shot of the season off a feed from Kyle O’Quinn.
Having already recorded 104 blocks entering the game Porzingis became just the 12th player in NBA history to record 100 threes and blocks in the same season and joined an elite club that includes names like Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green.
The 21-year-old is averaging 1.8 three-point makes and 4.8 attempts from three-point range in 2016-17 and converting at a 37.2 percent clip. Those numbers have shot up from his rookie season when he averaged just 1.1 makes and 3.4 attempts at a 33.3 percent clip.
Porzingis made a total of 81 threes last season and blocked 134 shots. He’s already blown away that three-point total with 102 and after Saturday’s block party (six more on the board) that total’s up to 110. With 16 games remaining in the season, Porzingis should shatter last season’s blocks total as well.
Some have speculated that Porzingis has become too reliant on the three-point shot. The Knicks have been criticized for letting the 7-foot-3 Porzingis be too perimeter oriented. 32.6 percent of Porzingis’ field goal attempts have been from three-point range (per basketball-reference.com) which is a significant increase from his 27.4 percent rate as a rookie.
For the second straight season, Porzingis’ most common play type (via NBA.com) has been spot ups. He hasn’t been efficient either season, but thankfully there’s been an improvement from rookie to sophomore.
As a rook, KP had a putrid effective field goal percentage of 40.6 percent and finished in the 25th percentile of efficiency. As a sophomore, he’s 52.8 percent and in the 61st percentile.
There’s been a call to get Porzingis to play closer to the basket since the youngster exploded onto the scene. According to NBA.com, he’s on pace to beat last season’s amount of post touches with 194 and paint touches with 160.
Porzingis has not reached his potential with his back to the basket skills. The Knicks ran 168 post up possessions last season, and he finished in the 44th percentile of efficiency; the Latvian hasn’t improved this season.
New York will likely end up having run fewer possessions. As of now, it’s just 126 possessions and Porzingis shooting 35.1 percent and currently in the 22nd percentile of efficiency.
Porzingis finished in the top ten in blocks, blocks per game, and block percentage as a rookie. He’s on pace to do the same as a sophomore. Porzingis’ play has made them third in blocks and tenth in blocked field goal attempts per game.
One of the reasons Porzingis is such a great shot blocker is because of his aggressiveness. He leads the league in defended field goals attempted per game with 16.6.
Porzingis has made himself into one of the game’s best rim protectors too. He’s sixth in defended field goal attempts within five feet of the basket and holds opponents’ attempts at the rim to 44.1 percent.
The can shoot the three, block shots, and run the floor. He is the epitome of the modern day big man. While most of NBA is struggling to find the next unicorn, the Knicks actually have one thing to be proud of during a lost season for this pathetic franchise.
Kristaps Porzingis isn’t a franchise player just yet, but his improvements from rookie to sophomore are staggering. They’ve resulted in nearly an increase of four in points per game and nearly an increase of five in minutes per game. The league is trending towards a specific type of big man, and Porzingis is that guy.