10 thoughts about Kristaps Porzingis’ play during the NBA Summer League

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For 99.9% of us, the most we know about Kristaps Porzingis‘ actual basketball ability comes from three summer league games, a couple YouTube highlight clips and a video of his pre-draft workouts. It’s not a lot to go on, but after watching the 7-1 Latvian play, I’m pretty confident that the New York Knicks have a special player on their hands. Well as much as three games can, I guess.

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It’s not like Porzingis filled up the boxscore in the three games he played in Las Vegas, but it’s more about the intangibles that he displayed:

1. He already has a good defensive awareness: Porzingis has done a good job of knowing where to be on defense and made efforts to cover the basket. This is where Porzingis stands out in those comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki. As great a player as Nowitzki was, the 7-0 forward was never, ever a rim protector, much less a good individual defender. Kristaps might not have the lateral quickness yet but early on, he looks like he has the smarts and work ethic to be an good defensive player.

2. He’s not Alonzo Mourning: Porzingis isn’t Alonzo Mourning, he’s not going after every block with veracity and go after every shot. Porzingis defensive value will come from his length and opportunity. He showed that last night getting all three of his blocks versus fellow rookie Jahlil Okafor.

As he develops, he’ll be an above-average shot blocker. He’s already good at changing shots and as a team defender.

3. He’s not Andrea  Bargnani: Though Porzingis hasn’t shown the defensive intensity of a Mourning or Chris Andersen, he’s not like the deer-in-the-headlights Andrea Bargnani either. Knicks fans know what I’m referring to, Porzingis won’t back down at the first bump and that’s a good early sign. Unfortunately, for most rookies, that means foul trouble as they put on weight and adapt to the speed of the game. For Porzingis, that meant that he recorded five fouls and seven fouls in his last two games.

4. He’s not a great rebounder: Porzingis just isn’t a good rebounder and I’m not sure how much he can improve here. He pulled in just three rebounds in each of his Summer League games. His reaction time to the ball and inability to get deep position low shows that Porzingis body is still developing. It’s not that he isn’t fighting under the basket or trying, he’s just not there physically. Time will tell.

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5. Poise and maturity beyond his years: Even though he’s just 19, Porzingis has been playing with adults for the last couple years so professional leagues are nothing new to him. Save for a few mistakes, Porzingis has shown great patience, attitude and confidence that belies his age. “He handles himself well,” said coach Derek Fisher. “This kid won’t let anything get to him.”

6. Takes good shots: As mentioned, Porzingis is patient, so his shot selection has reflected that. He’s more on the side of “let me take the right shots” as opposed to forcing shots as many players do in Vegas. Since KP has taken shots he was comfortable with, he’s shot an efficient 9-15 (60%) from the field. The downside is that being passive isn’t going to take him very far in the league.

7. He has a solid outside shot: Of the nine field goals that Porzingis has made, six of them have been jumpshots. And those jumpers have come in a variety of ways: free throw line jumpers, pull ups, a 20 footer and a running bankshot. The other three shots Porzingis converted came on two hookshots and a layup.

8. Comfortable dribbling: Porzingis is comfortable attacking the basket. He’s had it stolen a couple times when he tried going faster than he should, but you could tell that he was very comfortable putting the ball on the floor.

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9. Aggressive getting post position: The only times Porzingis’ eyes lit up and called for the ball were when he recognized a smaller player guarding him. At these times, he was good at sealing his defender. Unfortunately, we were robbed of seeing what Kristaps could do because of the poor court awareness by the Knick’s playmakers, particularly Langston Galloway who seemed as if he was always passing away from Porzingis in these scenarios.

10. He lacks post game: As comfortable as Porzingis seemed on perimeter and calls for the ball against smaller players, it was clear that he didn’t have many moves in the post when he was forced to make a move against defenders his size. The few times he scored in the paint was when he flashed to the middle or made a quick move to the basket.

Again, these observations are just based on on three summer league games – a total of less than 60 minutes of game action against lesser competition. Still, I’ve liked what I’ve seen from the 19-year old. For Kristaps Porzingis, he already has a good attitude, strong work ethic, court awareness and skill set so now it’s all about giving him time to develop.

Once the teenager grows into his body, learns the speed of the NBA game and gains more confidence, he has the potential to become a really good NBA player.

1 Comment

  • Kristap should work on a hook shot like Kareem had. Would be unstoppable!!

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