We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. Between now and the start of the NBA season we will tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season (we’re taking some weekends off). Today:
Can Kristaps Porzingis keep up with rapidly rising expectations?
Four Knicks starters have played in a combined 39 playoff series.
Yet New York’s most valuable player has never reached the postseason.
That means 21-year-old Kristaps Porzingis must keep up.
Porzingis is no longer a rookie, no longer the reigning No. 4 pick who drew boos and tears on draft night, no longer a player who seemed so unready that Anthony reportedly felt “betrayed” by New York drafting him (though Anthony denied that).
Can Porzingis meet them?
Re-do the 2015 draft, and Porzingis goes No. 2 behind Karl-Anthony Towns. The Knicks are thrilled they got him at No. 4.
At 7-foot-3, Porzingis can run the floor and shoot 3-pointers. He blocks shots at the rim with his length and hops. His frequent putback dunks reveal his athleticism and basketball intelligence.
There’s no shortage of reasons to be excited about Porzingis’ future.
His present? Even though he was far more NBA ready than expected, there are a couple warts. His outside shot was up and down throughout the season. He’s not strong enough to battle bulkier players in the post.
Those are minor issues for most teams that draft No. 4 then follow it with a 32-50 season. But the Knicks aren’t on the usual timeline.
They’re trying to accelerate their ascent before it’s too late for Anthony. The most-telling example: Giving 31-year-old Joakim Noah a four-year, $72.59 million contract. Porzingis’ best NBA position will eventually be center, if it isn’t already. Now, Noah has that spot locked up for the next four years at a price that will limit New York’s ability to add help at other positions.
Simply, the Knicks aren’t building around Porzingis – a result of the massive age gap between him and Anthony. They’re asking Porzingis to develop quickly, and New York fans have high hopes for their unicorn.
Those are massive expectations, internally and externally.
Porzingis has the talent to meet them. But it might take time this team and this market aren’t willing to give.
Fairly or not, it’s on Porzingis to step up.