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

Justise Winslow’s winning paradox

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 06: Justise Winslow #12 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers during the NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 6, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Duke defeated Wisconsin 68-63. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

NEW YORK – The feeling of success has followed Justise Winslow everywhere he’s been on his road to the NBA. In his freshman season at St. John’s he led the high school to their first Texas state championship since 1979 and then added two more championships to the school’s trophy case before heading to Duke.

In his only season in Durham, Winslow tasted the sweet flavor of championship glory as he helped guide Coach K and the Blue Devils to their fifth championship in school history, but when a player shows the flashes Winslow has shown throughout his life on the AAU circuit through college, a paradox is created when the player decides to head to the NBA.

When a high school kid displays a certain level of excellence, elite college programs will send letters and swag to try and acquire their services. When the kid continues to display a similar level of success at the college level, it’s time to try your luck in the NBA, but the Spurs, Warriors, and Clippers aren’t sending letters or cute little stuffed mascots in order to swing a player’s choice regarding a place to continue their career. It’s the bottom feeders in the NBA food chain that are chomping at the bit to obtain a player that can help them climb back up to the top.

The process puts someone like Winslow in a somewhat awkward spot, because if he ends up landing anywhere in his current draft projection (anywhere between the Knicks at four and the Heat at 10) he’s going to head to a team that has and will likely continue feeling a sensation that Winslow has avoided for most of his basketball life.


“Yeah it’s not a concern, but it’s just something that you have to understand. It’s a process. I won a lot,” Winslow said during the pre-draft interviews. ”For me to be able to deal with losing it’s something that I’m going to have to understand. Part of the maturing process is being able to take those losses and get better from them.”

When you watch film of Winslow, it’s easy to understand how he’s put himself in this position. He has the potential to become an elite defender along the lines of Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard. His 6’ 6”, 222 lb frame gives him the ability to switch off of a guard onto a big in a pick-and-roll, a key in this era of the NBA and his 6’ 10.25” wingspan helps him contest shots at the rim just in case a guard does get by him.

So what is it about his defense that makes him so tantalizing on that end of the floor? “I think my ability to use my hands and use my lower body to stay in front of guys,” Winslow told NBCSports’ ProBasketballTalk. “I’m just too physical and athletic that I just wear guys down by the end of the game.”

His offensive game has drawn comparisons to James Harden and when you watch him drive to the hoop or pull up from deep it’s hard to not see a younger, less hairy version of Harden. Winslow and Harden were almost identical in their freshman seasons in terms of threes attempted and made (Harden made 44 out of 108 and Winslow made 46 out of 110). Harden did get to the line much more than Winslow did during their freshman campaigns (270 compared to 156).

Winslow has received some criticism regarding the mechanics of his shot, specifically the trajectory of his shot, but it’s not something Winslow is concerned about, “I haven’t changed any mechanics,” Winslow told ProBasketballTalk. “I’ve just been putting up more reps and building up muscle memory.”

When you’re being compared to Harden on offense and Leonard/Butler on defense, your future is pretty bright to say the least. Justise Winslow just has to make sure the darkness of losing doesn’t gobble up the light of glory that has guided him to this spot.

Twitter – @ScottDargis

The Canadian trio (Wiggins, Stauskas and Ennis) is coming to the NBA

Andrew Wiggins

NEW YORK – For the second year in a row, a player from the land of maple syrup and hockey was selected with the first pick in the NBA Draft. Last year Anthony Bennett shockingly became the first Canadian born player to be picked first overall when the Cavs decided to roll the dice on the small forward. This year it came as no surprise when Andrew Wiggins was the first name commissioner Adam Silver called to the stage.

Wiggins had some pretty good company from his homeland, Nik Stauskas was selected eighth by the Sacramento Kings and Tyler Ennis was picked 18th overall by the Phoenix Suns. It was the first time in the history of the NBA that three kids from Canada were selected in first round. If you needed proof that there is more to do in Canada besides watch hockey, this was all of the evidence you needed.

This could also be just the tip of the ice burg, pun intended, especially if the Canadian trio lives up to the hype.

“I think it’s huge. Like I said before, it opens doors for all the youth and everyone in Canada. It gives them hope, you know, because coming up when I was in Canada, I wasn’t ranked or nothing,” Wiggins said on Thursday night after being selected by the Cavs. “I wasn’t known. I didn’t have no offers or anything like that.”

The lack of national attention put a chip on Wiggins’ shoulder that propelled him to keep working.

“But I just kept my head straight and kept working on my game and look where I am today,” he said. “I just think it gives everyone in Canada hope that they can accomplish what I do because it’s possible if they work hard.”

For Ennis, the ability to play international basketball and learn a different style of play helped his confidence blossom.

“It’s [playing internationally] helped a lot, you know having to adjust to the FIBA style of play. I was having to adjust to playing against pros who were coming right out of high school. In the U19 I was able to lead the tournament in scoring and I was able to show what I can do.”

Growing up in a country where the sport you love is basically the redheaded stepchild of the country is difficult, but staying in the country after realizing that the sport you love is also your destiny is even harder. It’s the reason why Stauskas had to leave his native land.

“I left Canada when I was 15 years old and my parents didn’t want me to leave,” he said. “But I felt like I had to in order to get to this point because I didn’t feel like there was that same kind of support of basketball in Canada.”

What we are currently observing is the evolution of a sport in a country. The key point in the shift of basketball’s popularity in Canada is tied to the introduction of the Toronto Raptors in 1995. Having an NBA team that you can consistently watch on television gave the kids in Canada a much easier outlet to discover the NBA. You can bet that at some point in their childhood development Wiggins, Stauskas and Ennis were mesmerized by the beauty of a young Vince Carter.

“[Watching the Raptors] was very important. I grew up a huge Raptors fan. Having them on TV all of the time gives you a team to watch and look up to,” Stauskas told “Especially having guys like Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady around that team growing up. Those were my guys, that’s who I looked up to.”

Every NBA draft is a celebration of the next wave of young talent (except for the disaster that was the 2013 NBA Draft), but when you think about how important it is to have idols growing up, the 2014 NBA Draft could be the reason why the next generation of Canadian kids decide to pick up a basketball.

“I really hope that the eight, nine, ten year old kids that are starting to play basketball in Canada look up to us,” Stauskas said. “Hopefully I inspire someone, because I was that kid growing up.”

Twitter: @Scottdargis