Scaletta’s Summer Top 100 is a ranking of returning NBA players. For a full explanation of our methodology, read our intro.
New York Knicks fans booed when Kristaps Porzingis was announced as the No. 4 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, but by the end of the season, no one was lamenting the choice.
Based on data at Basketball-Reference.com, “KP” went on to become the first rookie in NBA history to notch 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 100 blocks and 50 triples. Can he build on his effort with the new pseudo “super team.”
Porzingis has the potential to be really, really good. In a couple of years, he should become a top-10 player, but for now, his ceiling is “only” just outside the top 20. At a slight (relative to his height) weight of 238 pounds, he’s worked on adding muscle. However, that’s resulted in a gain of only one pound. But it can be a mistake to equate weight with strength.
Maxwell Ogden of Daily Knicks explains:
Porzingis discussed his need to put on weight with Anthony Donahue of the “33rd and 7th” podcast. Many will point to the need to get bigger up top, but Porzingis explicitly stated that he’s focused on gaining strength in his legs.
If Porzingis’ strategy works, he’ll be able to use his extra leg strength to not only keep from getting pushed around defensively, but also to improve his post-up game (where he was in just the 44.8 percentile last year, according to NBA.com).
Whether he reaches his ceiling will depend on how much that added muscle pays off.
What could “weigh” him down though is the fact he’s playing on a pseudo super team. Just because 2016-17 Derrick Rose isn’t 2010-11 Derrick Rose doesn’t mean he can’t take shots like he is. And there’s that Carmelo Anthony fellow there, too, who takes occasional touches. If Porzingis has to compete for the ball, it could actually mean a worse season for him — which is one reason the whole Rose trade just makes very little sense.
To put the freakishness of Porzingis into perspective, the 81 threes he made in his rookie season account for more than a quarter of all threes made by players 7-foot-3 and taller in the history of the NBA.
That stat exemplifies two things: one is the rarity of two things. First, how rare it is to actually have a player 7-foot-3 or taller. There have only been 24 of them. Of those, only eight ever made a three. And of those, Arvydas Sabonis is the only one other Porzingis to hit more than 50 in a career.
In a career! Porzingis has had a season.
This is why it would be a holy terror if Porzingis can add muscle and a post-up game. How do you guard a 7-foot-3 guy who can spot up or back you down? Trick question. You can’t.
Defensively, there are the same issues. His skills are evident enough, as demonstrated by his 5.0 percent block percentage. Opponents shot below their season averages from every range, according to his defensive dashboard. And he saved 1.05 points per game at the rim, fifth best in the NBA, according to Seth Partnow’s rim-protection stats.
On the downside, he was miserable defending the post-up, he gave up 1.04 points per play, putting him in just the 13.5 percentile. His lack of strength affects him here too.
On either end of the court, when he can operate in open space, his length, skills and athleticism let him do whatever he wants. But when it comes to the physical game, he needs to eat his spinach.