“I think they felt strength-wise that it was going to be an issue [for him] to play more than half a game,” Knicks president Phil Jackson said.
At the time, that seemed like a reasonable projection for a 19-year-old who weighed just 230 pounds on draft night.
But it turned out to be one of many expectations that Porzingis would shatter in his first month in the NBA.
The rookie has played more than 30 minutes a game when he isn’t in foul trouble -- and his strength and stamina have been just fine.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Jackson said on SiriusXM NBA Radio.
Porzingis certainly didn't have any conditioning issues late in Wednesday's game against Philadelphia.
With five minutes to play in the fourth quarter, he gathered the ball at the top of the key, pumped-faked, took two dribbles to get around Nerlens Noel and threw down an uncontested dunk. You can watch the play here.
The dunk was Porzingis’ final basket of the night, leaving him with 17 points to go along with 10 rebounds. He has nine double-doubles in 19 games -- the sixth-highest total in the NBA.
“He’s been pretty good,” Knicks guard Jose Calderon said with a grin.
Porzingis, of course, has been better than good for New York. He has renewed hope among a Knicks fan base that is in perpetual need of it, and he has rejuvenated a team coming off of the worst season in franchise history.
There are plenty of ways to illustrate Porzingis' impact on the Knicks thus far.
Here’s one: With Porzingis on the court, New York is outscoring opponents by 2.9 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. When he’s off the court, the Knicks are being outscored by 9.4 points per 100 possessions.
“I think he’s striving to be the best he can be right now,” coach Derek Fisher said. “And he’s doing a pretty good job of it.”
On Wednesday, the Knicks were looking for a No. 1 option with Carmelo Anthony (12 points, 5-for-16 shooting) battling an illness.
They needed to look no further than their rookie power forward. Porzingis had team highs in points, rebounds and blocks to help New York (9-10) snap its four-game losing streak with a 99-87 victory over the 76ers.
Afterward, Sixers coach Brett Brown gave a glowing review of the Knicks' rookie.
“That's a helluva good pick and I think that his upside is going to be kind of whatever he wants it to be,” Brown said. “I think that we're going to see great things from him over the next period of years. He’s unique.”
Wednesday’s game also offered a glimpse into what the Knicks hope can be their new normal: an offense that isn't overly reliant on Anthony.
Porzingis was one of six players in double figures against Philadelphia. Ten players took at least five shots Wednesday. And Anthony continued to set up open looks for teammates, Porzingis included.
“They seem to have a rapport and a chemistry that will develop more over time as they play together,” Fisher said of Anthony and Porzingis. “[But] the future in this game is like tomorrow. You can’t really plan too far in advance. We’ll take what we have right now.”
Right now, what the Knicks have is one of the top young players in the NBA.