Jeff Hornacek: Why can't Kristaps Porzingis be the best player in the league?

GREENBURGH, N.Y. –- Jeff Hornacek once played alongside one of the best forwards ever in two-time MVP Karl Malone.

Now the New York Knicks' new coach can envision himself coaching the best player in the game someday soon in Kristaps Porzingis.

“His ceiling -– wow,” Hornacek said after his introductory news conference when asked about Porzingis’ potential. “I don’t want to put pressure on the kid, but let’s face it: At that size and his skills and his abilities -- why can’t he be a top-five player in this league?

“Why can’t he be the best player in this league? He’ll continue to grow over these years. He’s 20 years old. He’s got a lot of things he’ll learn just from experience, and I’m sure five to six years from now you’ll be saying, ‘Look how good this kid is.’ He’s already good.”

Besides Porzingis’ unlimited potential, Hornacek is excited to coach Carmelo Anthony. Hornacek repeatedly referred to Anthony as a superstar and said the Knicks are a few pieces away from contending.

“I think any time you’ve got a superstar, I think that gives you a chance, and we have that in Carmelo,” Hornacek said. “It’s just a matter of building around him at other levels. I don’t think we’re that far off.

“There’s a lot of money on the free-agent market that’s out there. We have to try to maybe get a couple of these guys to help us out. We’re always looking to get better players, and if you have five All-Stars on your team, you’d be set. But you have one on the team, you have one that maybe will develop ... and hopefully you get one or two guys in free agency.”

Hornacek said he envisions using Porzingis in “some high pick-and-rolls” and in the post to exploit mismatches. The notion that Hornacek wants to use Porzingis in high pick-and-rolls and shoot more 3s is noteworthy. That's the same approach that ex-Knicks coach Derek Fisher used with Porzingis early on last season, though it was met with resistance from team president Phil Jackson, according to sources.

“You don’t see guys who are 7-3 who can do multiple things,” Hornacek said. “In our offense, you can see him in some high pick-and-rolls, out of the sets we have, fading for 3’s. At 7-3, I still believe you can get him on the post. If a team wants to play him with a small guy and get into him, then you can throw him down there and take advantage of his height from there.

“He’s got an inside game, he’s got an outside game -- he’s 7-3,” Hornacek added. “How’s somebody going to guard him? Defensively he can help, block shots and be a presence inside. So two really good pieces there and then you add all the other role players that are going to fill their role. It’s got a good balance of vets, got some young guys. It’s what you look for.”