NEW YORK -- Barring a miraculous late-season run, the New York Knicks aren’t headed to the playoffs. But that doesn’t mean their final 22 games are meaningless.
One thing to keep an eye on? Rookie Kristaps Porzingis' interior game.
“That’s where we think eventually he’s going to be unstoppable," Knicks interim coach Kurt Rambis said Friday. "He’s going to create a tremendous matchup problem for teams. The sooner he learns how to do that ... the better off he’s going to be.”
Same goes for the Knicks.
It’s hard to overstate just how important Porzingis’ development is to the franchise. You can make an easy argument that the club's next 10 years hinge on how well the 7-foot-3 Latvian progresses.
So it will be interesting to see what the organization does -- or doesn't do -- to foster Porzingis' growth over the next few seasons.
The 20-year-old has already shown an ability to score from the perimeter and in many areas inside the arc. But the Knicks would like to see him use his height more effectively closer to the basket.
"We’re still working on encouraging him to get inside more, to be more productive,” Rambis said. “Whether it’s at the elbow or post-up or giant step off the block."
The numbers show that Porzingis' interior play has been solid in Year 1.
According to Synergy Sports, Porzingis scores 0.88 points per play in the post, which places him in the top 40th percentile in the NBA. He has had particular success on the left block, where he has scored one point per play, according to Synergy.
He also scores 1.176 points per play on putbacks following offensive rebounds, which places him in the top 25 percent of the league.
These numbers are strong, particularly when you factor in that Porzingis didn’t play often in the post last season as a 19-year-old pro in Spain.
But the Knicks would like to see more. Rambis on Friday critiqued Porzingis' shot selection, pointing out that the rookie took some shots that he 'flat-out didn't like' -- which he noted is typical of young players.
Rambis also noted that Porzingis can do a better job creating space for himself.
“He’s a tall, long individual, [and] he’s got to keep people away from his body so that he can use his length and his mobility better,” Rambis said. “Everybody’s going to try to get into his legs. And try and push him around. So he’s got to try and figure out that space where to operate.
"We can teach him things, we can show him little tricks, but he’s actually got to get out there and go through it.”
Coaches aren’t the only ones teaching Porzingis. The rookie said he has learned a lot from watching Carmelo Anthony operate in the post this season.
"Offseason, even during the season, he’s always there for me," Porzingis said.
The offseason for Porzingis and Anthony is probably coming sooner than both would have liked. But before it does, it's worth keeping an eye on Porzingis' interior game. It's one of the many things the Knicks hope to fine-tune as Porzingis transitions from young talent to franchise cornerstone.