The New York Knicks found a gem in Kristaps Porzingis in 2015. The Latvian PF hit the league as if he knew he was born to dominate. However, Porzingis was no stranger to street clothes and watching from the sidelines with fans. His career with the Knicks, while full of promise, was also filled with missed opportunities. Something had to be done. Either they were going to make it work, or a change had to be made. The Knicks made the tough call.
Porzingis has known nothing but basketball his entire life. He began his pro career with Sevilla in the EuroLeague and became the glue to the senior team by 2013. In 2015, Porzingis would go on to win the EuroCup Basketball Rising Star Award at 18 and knew that he was ready to take on the professional players in the NBA.
So, with the 4th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Knicks took a gamble on a player many just didn’t know about. Did Phil Jackson have a crystal ball during the Draft? No, he took a risk and it paid off for almost two seasons for the Knicks. Looking back, the Knicks could have taken that same chance on Devin Booker, Myles Turner or Montrezl Harrell.
In his rookie season in 2015, Porzingis provided flashes of what Knicks’ fans and now Dallas Mavericks’ fans see today. While still learning the game, thanks to no American college ball, Porzingis relied on sheer talent and hustle. He would go on to average 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.3 assists while hitting. 421 percent of his shots.
But it wasn’t just what he offered on the offensive end. Porzingis, with his length, also provided to be a valuable defender. During the 2015-16 season, he averaged 1.7 blocks per game. Porzingis was still learning but you could sense that a breakthrough was coming. Even as a rookie, Porzingis’ game was being mentioned as the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki. The comparisons were truthful but the young forward still had plenty of growing on the court to do.
During the 2016-17 season, Porzingis figured it out. In 66 games, the second-year player averaged 18.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. He was well on his way to stardom. Porzingis took Madison Square Garden by storm and in just his second season, fans were wondering if he had already taken the mantle from superstar Carmelo Anthony as the face of the franchise. Despite his stellar efforts, Porzingis was still left off the All-Star team.
The following season, Kristaps Porzingis came out the gate hot for the New York Knicks. With Anthony traded, the team was now his. How would he respond with the weight so many players before him have failed under? Well, in 48 games before a season-ending injury, Porzingis took the NBA hostage with per-game averages of 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds while hitting .439 percent from the floor. In doing so, he earned his first All-Star nod. All was well in Knicks’ land then he went down and that’s where the issues began.
Rumors began to surface that he wanted out of New York. Then rumors began that the Knicks wanted him out as well. Fans were torn. While Porzingis showed flashes of greatness, injuries often derailed those plans. To make matters worse, time was approaching for a new deal to be done. Should the Knicks pay him top dollar or low ball him into a “prove it” deal once he returns?
With Porzingis sitting out the entire 2018-19 season while rehabbing, the Knicks made a controversial decision during the trade deadline and dealt KP to the Dallas Mavericks along with Tim Hardaway Jr, Trey Burke, and Courtney Lee for Dennis Smith Jr, DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, and two first rounds picks.
As the 2019 season grew closer, many wondered if Porzingis would be ready. Well, the answer to that has been a resounding yes. While the season is still young, the Mavericks are labeled one of the surprise teams so far. And a huge reason for that has been the play of Kristaps Porzingis.
On the year, he’s averaging 19.0 points, 8.1 rebounds while shooting .412 percent from the floor. And still, he’s able to attack on the defensive end with 2.3 blocks per game. For the Mavericks, he’s been a blessing as he and second-year player Luka Doncic have formed a great duo. As for Knicks fans, it’s a cold pill to swallow as they gave up on Porzingis due to health and off the court issues.
While Porzingis is mentioned as a good player, he could easily jump the ladder as a complete superstar if he can manage to stay on the court for more than 70+ games. Injuries have robbed him throughout his career and he and the Mavericks are hoping that’s all behind him now.