The resounding putback dunks got Kristaps Porzingis noticed, but his overall offensive game and skills have most NBA insiders believing the Knicks drafted a future All-Star.
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Porzingis combines size, length, athleticism, agility and a hunger to be great in his 7-3 frame. All of that has made him very difficult to defend no matter where he is on the floor.
He hits long three-pointers from straightaway, fadeaway jump shots, pull-up jumpers and hook shots with either hand. He can take opponents off the dribble. Opposing teams now are game-planning for the versatile Porzingis, and he’s forcing them to make adjustments.
The Celtics put 6-4 guard Marcus Smart on Porzingis in a recent game to frustrate him. He can expect to see even more unconventional matchups.
“There are going to be different situations that I’ve got to be ready for,” he said. “This showed me that I got something that I need to work on.”
Porzingis is only 20, and he has plenty he needs to work on and develop. Here’s what a couple of long-time scouts see thus far:
Porzingis in the post/back to the basket
Scout 1: “His advantage is his length because he’s bigger than everybody. His length is a real factor when he’s on the block. The weakness is he can get pushed off the block, too. He’s not going to make penetration to the middle. Everything he’s going to do is going to be facing. He has nice touch on his hook. He can face you up and rip and go on you. This kid has the whole package.”
Scout 2: “He’s kind of multi-dimensional. He’s further along than I would have thought. He’s got a mix between a finesse game — and I use that term in a positive way — in that he can finish around the basket, but he also has a power game. I’ve seen him get pushed off against some of the stronger post defenders, but he’s also been pretty good at his reaction to that. Sometimes he’ll give you a quick spin baseline and finish. I’ve seen a little jump hook. He’ll probably have to refine his post game, for sure. But I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen so far.”
Porzingis on the wing/facing the basket
Scout 1: “I see a guy that has pretty good vision. He sees the floor. He’s good off the bounce, one or two bounces and shoot. He’s got good vision, he’s a shot-maker, rarely makes a bad decision. He’s comfortable there. He’s not forcing his outside game.”
Scout 2: “One of the things he’ll want to do is crank it up if he’s got a little bit of daylight. But you can put him in some different situations. You can put him in some pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop. He can pass, set a quick screen and pop. He’s got the footwork to do that that some bigs just don’t, especially someone of his size. I think you can kind of exploit mismatches a little bit more. He can put it on the floor for one or two dribbles and pull up from midrange.”
Porzingis on the perimeter/at the top
Scout 1: “He’s a threat because he can hit the three and he can go by you. He’s a really good basketball player. It’s not fair to compare him to Dirk Nowitzki, but what I remember about Nowitzki when he was a rookie, this kid is much better. He just stretches the defense and he forces you to make a matchup decision. He’s a hard guard just because of his size and his total skill package.”
Scout 2: “When he’s behind the three-point line, he’s shooting it. When he’s got a little bit of daylight, he’s not shy about shooting it. He’s a definite threat and he takes some pretty deep shots. His range is a step or two behind the line. He needs to increase the rate at which he connects on those shots. He’s not a bad passer for somebody his size. He needs to get a little better. I’ve seen him make some skilled passes. He can play in the high-low game. I’ve seen him dump it down to Robin Lopez or even if they clear the side out for Carmelo. He’s able to make that pass into the post. On a hard close-out, he can put the ball on the floor, one, two dribbles and pull up. He’ll try to finish with some authority if he’s got a little bit of daylight down the lane.”
As an offensive rebounder
Scout 1: “I was watching them against Atlanta and he had a weak-side dunk and then the next possession, he went over both [Paul] Millsap and [Al] Horford in the middle of the lane to get another putback on back-to-back plays. Offensive rebounding is about going, and he goes. He has length, and that length puts him at an advantage. He’s one of the longest guys I’ve ever seen that can play. His length and his toughness; he’s got that baby face, but that guy’s got some toughness about him.”
Scout 2: “He’s been a very solid offensive rebounder. If he can get a rim-rattling offensive rebound, he’ll put it in over somebody. The fact that you’re getting production from a frontcourt player that tends to be utilized on the perimeter so much is an added value. He’s done pretty well crashing the boards. He picks his spots and he gets up and he challenges. He’s got great length, great size. He’s gotten stronger. I think that’s only added some confidence in him to get up and mix it up with opponents.”
Overall thoughts on Porzingis
Scout 1: “The thing with him that blows you away is that kid is mentally tough. For all the talk about him preparing for the NBA — he is prepared. He doesn’t back down from anybody. That’s probably the most surprising thing. You always tend to think these Euros are a little soft. But he’s got great poise on the offensive end. He takes very few what I would say would be a poor shot. Every now and then he’ll hoist a three. But I think his mental toughness, his savvy for a young player, his ability, he just really knows how to play, his basketball IQ. Those things with his pure talent — he’s a future All-Star. There’s no question about it.”
Scout 2: “I don’t think anybody thought he was this NBA-ready at all. I’ve been very impressed with how he’s displayed some toughness. He’s not afraid to bang. He’s not afraid to mix it up on both ends of the floor. I would probably say he’s most effective on the perimeter right now. But that doesn’t mean he’ll shy away from being in the post. I just think that that’s probably the area he probably needs the most work.”