The Rise of Kristaps Porzingis

The 2015 draft was filled with great NBA talent. The 2015 class was headlined by Kentucky star, Karl Anthony-Towns and Ohio State stand-out, D’Angelo Russell. The Knicks had the 4th pick in the draft and–according to Bleacher Report–were suppose to pick PG Emmanuel Mudiay who played the season before in China.

The Knicks ended up picking Kristaps Porzingis with the 4th pick of the draft. The audience at the draft, which mostly consisted of Knick fans, immediately started booing the selection.

At the time, the Knicks were in desperate need of a starting caliber point guard. The 2015 draft was full of guards that the Knicks could have drafted. Mario Hezonja was drawing comparisons to former NBA great, Tracy McGrady. Fans wanted at least to see Phil draft Hezonja. But when they decided to take Porzingis, fans were disgusted.

Heading into the draft, fans didn’t know much of Porzingis. All they knew was that he was a 7’3 big-man who could shoot threes. Fans were turned off by the fact that he was built like a rod and the assumption was that he wouldn’t be strong enough to bang down low with the front court of the NBA.

Porzingis put all those assumptions to bed in his first season in the NBA. Porzingis played in 72 of the total 82 games of the NBA season, averaging 14 PPG, 7 RPG and 2 BPG. As the season wore on, fans were becoming aware of the potential impact he could make on the team. Even though the Knicks were in desperate need of a point guard, they needed help at every position.

In his sophomore season, Porzingis played even better. He averaged 18 PPG and shot 30 points better from the field. The season was somewhat hampered by injuries but when he was on the court, he didn’t disappoint.

Some people even thought that he would be better than he was during his 2nd full year in the NBA. It was apparent that something was holding the Latvian superstar back.

In 2014, despite his dislike for Phil, Carmelo Anthony resigned with the Knicks and agreed to a 5-year, $120 million contract. Anthony was the unquestioned go-to guy for the Knicks. He took all the big shots and led the team in shots per game during his tenure with the Knicks.

With Anthony taking all the shots, Porzingis couldn’t expand his game and become the player that fans were dreaming about after his first season in the NBA.

In September, right before the NBA season started, the Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony to the Thunder for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a 2nd round pick–which could end up being the 1st pick in the 2nd round.

Once Anthony was traded, the Knicks handed over the keys to Porzingis to drive the offense. The move has seemed to pay off.

Porzingis is averaging 28 PPG in the same amount of minutes per game. He is shooting better from three and has improved on the defensive side of the court as well.

It is clear the Knicks are a better team without Anthony, and it is clear that Porzingis should be the guy the Knicks build around for the future.

Porzingis has now been put in the role of being a leader and being mature. It seems the Knicks have forgotten about Porzingis skipping the exit meeting at the end of the season.

Whatever happened during the dreadful 2016-17 year is over. The Knicks fired Phil and traded ‘Melo. Now it’s time to rebuild with the young core that the Knicks have with Porzingis leading the process.