With the NBA Draft less than a month away, we're taking a look at how potential lottery picks fit with the New York Knicks. European big man Kristaps Porzingis is one player who may be on the board for New York, which has the fourth pick.
Below is a look at how Porzingis could impact the Knicks:
How will Porzingis fit the triangle?
“Kristaps is a guard in the body of an extremely lanky power-forward,” says Pere Capdevila, the founder of the scouting service Eurohopes and a consultant for European and NBA teams. “His game is very fluid and his body is extremely coordinated.”
As such, the 7-1 Porzingis brings several attributes that can be useful in the triangle.
He was comfortable scoring in the interior and perimeter for Sevilla this season, so Porzingis may be effective playing multiple positions in the triangle.
Also, Porzingis hit 54 percent of his two-point shots and 38 percent of his 3-point shots this season in the ACB, which is the best domestic league in Spain and, some would argue, the best league outside of the NBA.
So Porzingis should be able to knock down both the NBA 3-pointer and the midrange shot at the next level. This is important because the triangle offense produced midrange shots in abundance last season; New York attempted the fourth-most shots between 15-19 feet in the NBA on a per-game basis.
Scouts don’t see Porzingis as the perfect triangle player, though.
For one, the young Latvian lacks at post game at this point in his career. Scouts say his slight build (220 pounds) precludes him from establishing position close to the basket.
“He prefers to attack from outside. Make three-point shots,” says Christopher Ney, the founder of europeanprospects, a European scouting service. “He is quite similar in playing style to Andrea Bargnani so this might be a problem.”
Adds ESPN NBA Draft Insider Fran Fraschilla: “He’s a couple of years away, strength-wise.”
Porzingis also isn’t a strong passer, Ney says.
The numbers bear this out. Last season at Sevilla, he committed three turnovers for every assist in league play.
Passing is an integral part of the triangle offense, particularly for big men, who are expected to make reads both with their backs to the basket and while facing it. So this is an area where Porzingis needs to improve.
How would Porzingis fit with Carmelo?
The Bargnani comparison is troubling because Bargnani supporters thought he would be a good complement to Carmelo. Anyone whose watched the Knicks for the last two seasons can tell you it hasn't worked out well.
Also, the Knicks have been better statistically with Anthony at power forward in the past three seasons. If Anthony shares the floor with Porzingis, that may not be possible because Ney believes Porzingis will play solely at power forward in the NBA.
Lastly, Ney sees Porzingis as someone “used to [playing] in a free-floating offense where he can create with the ball.” Anthony also needs the ball in his hands as well, so Porzingis would need to find a way to be effective off the ball.
The Porzingis-Anthony pairing isn't all bad, though.
Scouts say Porzingis runs the floor well and can finish at the rim with an ease that’s rare for a player of his size. Knicks coach Derek Fisher said throughout last season that he wanted New York to push the tempo (the Knicks ranked 28th in pace). So Porzingis’ willingness to run the floor could help Fisher push the pace next season. In theory, that would create easy transition baskets for the Knicks.
So what does all of this have to do with Anthony? The seven-time All Star recently turned 31 and has already played more than 30,000 minutes in the regular season. He's also coming off of major knee surgery.
So any easy Knicks transition basket means one less possession where Anthony spends time getting beat up in the post.
What can Porzingis bring on defense?
Capdevila sees Porzingis as a strong shot blocker at the next level. But most observers believe the 19-year-old needs improve his rebounding. He averaged 3.2 defensive rebounds in 21 minutes per game last season in league play.
The Knicks were 29th in rebounding percentage last year so it’s fair to wonder whether they can draft a player who isn’t a strong rebounder.
On the plus side, Ney says Porzingis has a good command of team defense. But his slight frame may be detrimental in the paint.
“He will probably get abused in the paint in the beginning because of his lack of strength and he is too slow to defend small forward,” Ney says.
A front line featuring Porzingis and Anthony would need a strong center in place to get consistent stops.
Still, it’s worth pointing out that Porzingis is 19 and has plenty of time to develop –- on both sides of the floor.
“Nobody wants to draft a guy that will be compared to Bargnani,” Fraschilla says. “But five years from now, Porzingis could be Dirk [Nowitzki] or Pau Gasol.”