Author: Scott Dargis


Kristaps Porzingis and the power of patience


NEW YORK – As Adam Silver walked to the podium to announce the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, everyone in the media area who saw Adrian Wojnarowski’s tweet regarding the Knicks’ selection knew what was in store for Kristaps Porzingis when his name came out of the commissioner’s mouth.

On cue the Knicks faithful showered the 7’ 1” 19-year old from Latvia with a downpour of boos as he made his way up to shake Silver’s hand. It was quite the response for the franchise’s highest draft pick since Patrick Ewing in 1985 and it’s something that Porzingis is determined to erase during his time in New York.

“I have to do everything that’s in my hands to turn those booing fans into clapping fans,” Porzingis said after holding up his freshly printed number 15 Knicks jersey. It’s a task that’s not going to be easy, but the seven footer has the type of game that could quickly turn New York’s perception of him.

Porzingis possesses an offensive skill set that has the chance to be otherworldly. His silky smooth shooting stroke will be on display right out of the box. He can spot up from beyond the arc and pull up off of the dribble. He can post up and score inside thanks to his extremely long frame. It’s easy to fall in love with his potential as a big in the Triangle Offense.

Beyond his offensive abilities, Porzingis’ extremely long frame (his wingspan has been rumored to be anywhere between 7’ 3” and 7’ 6”) allows him to cover quite a bit of ground on defense. If a guard gets around him, he has the length to alter their shot at the rim. If he traps on a pick-and-roll, he has the agility to recover and get back in front of his man.

Besides the obvious question marks about coming over from Europe, Porzingis’ body has been knocked during the draft process (Someone who is reading this just thought to themselves, well Darko was soft!), but the discussion about his body type has been blown out of proportion. Yes his body is a bit awkward and does resemble a baby giraffe, but so many people have been shouting that he needs to put on weight. Newsflash, he’s going to put on weight. Every player who enters the league is put on a weight training program in order to maximize their body.

There is film of Porzingis being knocked around by guys in the paint who are four to five inches smaller than him,

but over the next couple of years his body will evolve as he transforms from a 19-year old kid into a man, which will give him the ability to handle contact under the basket.

There’s just so much to like about Porzingis, but it’s hard to sell his potential that to a fanbase who is desperate to see a quick turnaround even though there doesn’t appear to be one in sight. Carmelo Anthony is an aging superstar who is coming off of knee surgery and is in desperate need of a stable foundation around him because right now the Knicks’ roster beyond Melo looks like this:


Phil Jackson could pull off a couple of miracles in free agency due to the abundance of cap space New York has, but the Knicks haven’t been linked to any of the top free agents, unless you count pipe-dreams of Marc Gasol. The Knicks may have to go about this rebuilding process a different way, by developing their high draft picks into stars and that all begins with Porzingis.

“It’s crazy, you know for me, just playing in New York. Phil Jackson is a known hero,” Porzingis said. “First I’ll make sure I do my work, and he’ll make sure he puts me in a position where I can succeed.”

Now it’s Porzingis’ job to become the next known hero in New York.

Twitter – @ScottDargis

Frank Kaminsky wants you to know that his potential isn’t ‘tapped out’

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 04:  Frank Kaminsky #44 of the Wisconsin Badgers reacts late in the game against the Kentucky Wildcats during the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 4, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

NEW YORK – Compared to the rest of the guys who will be sitting in the green room at the 2015 NBA Draft, Frank Kaminsky is a 22-year-old senior citizen. He’s the lone guy out of the group who completed all four years of school, which is quite an accomplishment in the one-and-done age.

“People who go to college have to grow up and find their way. It’s not easy to make it for four years in college and maintain a level of success where you get better and better every year,” Kaminsky said during the pre-draft interviews. “I was able to do that. I was able to grow up as a person and grow up as a player.”

Indeed he did. Kaminsky got better and better each year throughout his time at Wisconsin, with the culmination coming in his senior year as he was named a consensus first team All-American, the Big Ten Player of the Year, and the Naismith National Player of the Year. And he led Wisconsin to the national championship game, to boot.

Kaminsky had the highest player efficiency rating in the entire country and had a higher usage rate than Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor, yet his draft projection is all over the place. No one seems to know where the seven foot kid who loves to play FIFA is going to land, but we know it’s very likely that he’s not going to be taken inside the top eight.

You would think that a kid who took it to Towns and Okafor in the NCAA Tournament would be bothered by this notion, but Kaminsky doesn’t seem to care. “It doesn’t matter to me,” Kaminsky told NBCSports’ ProBasketballTalk when asked about what it feels like to have his current draft projections after accomplishing so much in college. “I know what I can do and I know what I’m capable of, so I’m just willing to go to any team and try to make the most of it.”

The one talking point that has bothered Kaminsky is the idea that he’s done evolving as a basketball player. When he was asked if there were any misconceptions about him heading into the draft, Kaminsky responded with a serious, almost annoyed tone, “That my potential is tapped out already. I seem to hear that a bunch of times. People talk about ‘I don’t know how high his ceiling is.’ You know it’s cool, you guys can write all what you want, I don’t really care because I know I’m the person who has control of all that. So I can continue to make myself better and continue to get better at basketball.”

But the question is where will Kaminsky continue to grow as a basketball player? Rumors surrounding the Bucks moving up in order to keep him in Wisconsin have floated around. He’s been linked to the Suns at 13. Most notably Phil Jackson has seemed enamored with the big guy’s ability to act as the center in the Triangle Offense, which means we could see the Knicks trade down from the fourth spot, if Towns, Okafor and Russell are gone, in order to grab Kaminsky along with some other assets.

If Kaminsky were to wind up in New York, he believes it would be a good landing spot. “I think it would be a good fit because they run the offense through some bigs and it’s a lot of screening action,” Kaminsky said. “You know I feel like I can fit into a lot of offenses, but the triangle gives you a bunch of reads that you’re able to make and that’s kind of the offense that we ran at Wisconsin.”

Kaminsky acting as one of the pillars in the triangle would be fascinating to watch as his mobility, patience in the post, and ability to handle the ball make him a nice fit for The Guru’s offense.

The one thing he wouldn’t be looking forward to if he wound up in New York? The congestion.

“I don’t like all of the traffic,” Kaminsky noted.

It’s something he might have to get used to.

Cameron Payne is the next mid-major point guard to rise from obscurity

NEW YORK - JUNE 24: NBA Draft Prospect, Cameron Payne poses for portraits during media availability and circuit as part of the 2015 NBA Draft on June 24, 2015 at the Westin Times Square in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

NEW YORK – Over the past few years, a mid-major guard has worked his way up from the island of misfit schools to the green room at the NBA Draft.

In 2012, Damian Lillard was selected sixth overall by the Portland Trail Blazers after spending four years at Weber State.

In 2013, Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum joined Lillard in the Blazers’ backcourt as he was selected with the 10th pick.

Last year, Elfrid Payton and Elfrid Payton’s hair successfully made the leap from Louisiana-Lafayette to the lottery as he was selected by the Sixers with the 10th overall pick, but was traded while sitting at the interview podium to the Orlando Magic for Dario Saric, a second round pick in this year’s draft, and a 2017 first round pick.

This year it’s Cameron Payne’s turn to ascend from Murray State into one of the first 14 picks in the 2015 NBA Draft. Payne just has to wait a little while longer to hear his name come out of Adam Silver’s mouth and then he’ll be able to walk up to the stage with a gigantic smile on his face, the same smile that was on display during the pre-draft interviews on Wednesday.

It’s a smile that comes from a desire to tell his story with the masses, who are finally interested in learning about where the 20 year old point guard came from. Because when he was on his way to becoming the Ohio Valley Player of the Year as a sophomore in college, no one seemed to care, but now everyone is asking him to share his backstory.

“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Payne said during the pre-draft interviews. “I really think this happened for a reason. I tell my story to every guy that I talk to.”

This is a whole new world for Payne, who suddenly finds himself navigating through a massive schedule of interviews. “Man at Murray I used to have one or two [interviews] every two weeks on Monday and now every day it’s like you have nine and then [tomorrow] you have three,” Murray said. He noted that he’s dealing with the added media responsibilities “pretty well.”

Payne’s versatile skill set as a point guard and superior basketball IQ have been the catalysts for his rising draft stock, but with the NBA currently in the golden era of point guards, it’s a gigantic plus to have the ability to play off of the ball, especially if he were to wind up next to Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City. Payne showed flashes of being dangerous without the ball in his hands at Murray State, but the Racers needed him to dominate the ball handling responsibilities.

“I can be a combo guard, I don’t need the ball to succeed,” Payne told NBCSports’ ProBasketballTalk. “But I feel my best attributes come from me having the ball, because I put people in the perfect situation to score and I mean perfect. People like playing with me because I can do that and not a lot of players can do that.”

Just watch the tape on Payne and you’ll see exactly what he’s talking about. I’ll wait here while you watch this Draft Express video.

You’re back! Told ya the kid can pass the ball pretty freaking good, but if he ends up in OKC, he’ll get relegated to briefly running the Thunder’s second unit when Durant and Westbrook hit the bench.

Besides the Thunder, Payne has met with the Pacers, Lakers, Kings and Nuggets. Indiana would be an interesting fit if Larry Bird does decide to use the 11th overall pick on him, as Payne could be an immediate replacement for C.J. Watson, Rodney Stuckey, and Donald Sloan, who are all unrestricted free agents. Stuckey says he’s confident that he and the Pacers will work out a deal, but even if Stuckey does come back, Payne could replace the 1,422 minutes Watson played last year and would have a much better chance of running the point with an actual star playing alongside him.

Payne’s best chance to start immediately would be in Denver, but the Nuggets would have to find a trade suitor for Ty Lawson (George Karl is jumping up and down raising his hand) and receive another pick in the first round (George Karl is now doing jumping jacks). The Nuggets would fill one of their many holes with the first pick and then use the other on Payne as the replacement for Lawson.

Regardless of what happens on draft night, Cameron Payne has followed the path of success by following the advice of a mid-major trail blazer who helped pave the way for him.


Twitter – @ScottDargis