Kristaps Porzingis
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Kristaps Porzingis is on the verge of breaking out for the first time since he was with the New York Knicks.

Danny Small

New York Knicks fans don’t want it to happen, but it’s inevitable. Kristaps Porzingis is going to be a perennial All-Star and the perfect running mate for Luka Doncic. Sure, there are injury concerns and the 7-foot-3 Latvian has struggled to maintain consistency so far in Dallas, but he has all the makings of a mind-bending superstar.

With Doncic going down with an ankle injury, the Mavs needed Porzingis to become the alpha dog. Flashback to the beginning of the 2017-18 season to remember what that looks like. In the wake of Carmelo Anthony‘s trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the young European immediately became the No. 1 option.

Over the course of the first 10 games, the long-limbed assassin had racked up 300 total points with remarkable efficiency. He was connecting on just under 40% of his threes and on over 50% of all his shots. His offensive prowess was on full display and he was injecting some life into Madison Square Garden.

New Yorkers certainly aren’t thinking back fondly on any memories involving No. 6—other than those two wins in November—but fans can’t deny that the Knicks were must-see television when Porzingis was launching up daggers against the Indiana Pacers.

The one-time All-Star has never played as well as he did during that electrifying stretch from more than two years ago and he honestly might not ever reach quite that level on a consistent basis. But the bad news for the rest of the NBA is that he’s starting to look closer to that version of himself than he has all season.

The lanky forward is putting up solid numbers this season (17.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.1 blocks). However, over his last six games, Porzingis is averaging 22.0 points, 12.8 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game. Admittedly, per-game averages are pedestrian statistics to rely on, but his uptick in production is evidence of his growing comfortability on the court.

He’s starting to look a lot more like “The Unicorn” again. He helped sabotage the Milwaukee Bucks’ 18-game winning streak last week with his signature trailer threes from the logo. These types of dagger threes were a common sight in New York not so long ago.

Things aren’t all sunshines and rainbows for Porzingis and Dallas right now, though. They blew a 30-point lead to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday in a historic loss and for parts of the second half, it looked like No. 6 wouldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat.

Again, he’s not firing on cylinders yet. The keyword being “yet.”

There’s a stone-cold killer in that 7-foot-3 frame just waiting to be unleashed. The thought of Porzingis seriously catching fire at the same time that Doncic re-enters the lineup is a scary thought indeed.

In Doncic’s absence, Porzingis is taking a higher percentage of his shots at the rim and he’s converting on those attempts at a higher clip. The big man loves to shoot the three, but diving to the rim while Doncic slithers around defenders should be a recipe for success.

The Mavericks sit at 19-10 and appear to be destined for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Whether or not Porzingis ever finds his superstar form from his days in the orange and blue could be the difference between an early flameout in April or a late run into May…or June.

Another group of diehards is patiently awaiting the arrival of the fully-evolved version of Porzingis after Knicks fans did so for quite some time. If and when Porzingis reaches his final form, it will just be a painful reminder of what could have been in New York.

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