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As a NY based site we are breaking down the draft here for knicks fans and with our team of writers. More to come on NBA futures bets in July after free agency begins and alters lines and win totals.
Brian C. Mack
Just One Man’s Opinion…
Brooklyn, NY sometime after 8pm EST..
So the NBA Draft is officially over. Not in a literal sense. The picks are still being made, kids are still making their way to shake hands with Adam Silver. Mom’s are taking pictures of their sons making their dreams come true, and Jalen Rose, Jay Williams and Jay Bilas are busy analyzing each player, team fit and projecting success. The draft however, is officially over in NY though, because the 4th pick has been taken. Kristaps Porzingis is a New York Knickerbocker.
Now, I can say that I’m not too shocked by this selection. Any fan reading the tea leaves throughout this process would have been aware that the possibility the Knicks would fall in love with the potential of this 19 year old phenom was a very real one. Porzingis was widely considered one of the more promising prospects in the 2015 draft, a player who in time could be the steal, and talk, of the entire event. On its face, the selection of Kristaps is a huge success for Phil Jackson and the Knicks organization, showing a propensity to think outside of the box and not settle for the safety of a sure thing and immediate production (whatever that means in an amateur draft), and instead electing to swing for the fences looking for the grand slam. Drafts are about potential, and Kristaps has loads of it. We’ve all heard the praise. 7’3″ in sneakers, beautiful shooting stroke. Athletic, smart, willing to learn and well balanced are all compliments that come to mind when reviewing the talent of the athlete. There’s plenty of reasons to like this selection and appreciate the value of the pick and the process. But there’s a few glaring reasons why this pick scares the hell out of me, and why the night, at 8 something PM, is essentially over.
First, there’s the player. Porzingis is all the things listed above and then some. His ceiling is as vast as his wingspan, and he appears to have a rare package of skills few on the planet are blessed with. What is also true about him and has been a major point of concern though is his build. Kris’ body is still “under construction”. In order to maximize his productivity and meet all the expectations of a player with his gifts in the NBA, the conventional wisdom is that he will have to add bulk, and a fair amount of it. This will take some time to build out effectively, as the 19 year old fills out his frame through workouts, weightlifting and meal plans. It’s pretty evident that right now, Kris’ NBA projection is not much more than a space 4, a player who can step out and hit the long range shot and take advantage of pick and pop, drive and kick and setups on the high post. All the things he can be, the things that his frame suggests could happen for him (shot blocking, rebounding, defensive and offensive interior dominance with his skill set, etc) all project to be 2-4 years away from truly developing. Thing is, there’s no guarantee that this growth will ever really take place. Yeah he’s likely to put on a few pounds and lift a few weights, but by and large is there a metamorphosis really on the horizon, and does that really change the player into the dominant force people believe he could be?
How many “skinny” NBA players ever really filled out as anticipated? Kevin Durant comes to mind as a player many believed would need to add bulk to truly shine, and while I’m sure he’s put on some weight, KD is still very much a stick figure in sneakers. It hasn’t hurt the former MVP’s favor due to his dominant skill and sweet shot, but there’s no guarantee that Kristaps has the same trajectory without adding the aforementioned bulk to his frame. Not to mention most players tend to want to shed weight as they get older (see Lebron James and Kris’ teammate Carmelo Anthony), so the notion of Kris building out to anything more than 10-15 pounds heavier than he is right now is probably fools gold. If he needs to add 30+ pounds to his lower body and arms to bang in the NBA, does anybody believe that will ever happen? And if it does, will it change the player so drastically that he resembles something totally different, and possibly not as multi-faceted? His frame is part of what makes him so intriguing and athletic. Taking that away to build him as an NBA player may negate some of what makes him the dynamic athlete he is to begin with.
Second, and most importantly, is the Knicks organizational structure themselves. With the thought being that this young man’s best production is 2-4 years away, the smart play as an organization is to wait and develop the talent into the all-NBA player he’s projected to be. Problem is, these are the Knicks. When have the Knicks, in the past 30 years, ever been known as the team to wait on anything to develop? Their reputation to jump at the first sign of supposed prosperity is not a mirage. Like Lola, whatever Dolan wants, he pretty much goes for regardless of the cost to his future prospects and long term aspirations. This draft pick is every bit of a Phil Jackson selection. But if the timeline is right, Phil will be gone in 4 years, and if Porzingis hasn’t blossomed into a star by then, who’s to say that Dolan, Steve Mills, Isiah Thomas and whatever is left of the braintrust in NY won’t look at the roster of aging free agent acquisitions and budding young talent in the midst of a respectable but middle of the pack season and jump at a chance to trade for a big name superstar for one last shot at a title and 3 months of recognition? Will these guys see that Kris is right on the ledge of superstardom, that one more offseason is going to do it? One more coaching hire will give him the knowledge and guidance needed to turn the page in his prime? Or will they see a chance to make a splash and trade for a 34 year old Lebron James in his 17th NBA season?
Would they move Porzingis to do it? Based on track record, you bet your ass they would. And just like that, the most heralded pick of the Knicks organization since Patrick Ewing could be out the door before he ever gets the chance to show who and what kind of player he really is.
Think Phil and the Knicks are turning a different page in developing their young talent? Ask Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and the recently dealt Tim Hardaway jr what happens when the sea change occurs around the Knicks organization and the guys that drafted you are shown the door. They clean house, re-imagine the roster, and send you packing to a situation and organization that reaps the benefits of your fully grown self. The best of Gallo has been in Denver. Mozgov thrived in the playoffs with Cleveland. Same with Shumpert. And the consensus is that Hardaway will find a nice role on a 60 win team in Atlanta. I don’t fear that Kris will grow into a star, I fear that we won’t be the ones to witness it.
There’s a lot to like about the selection of Porzingis at #4 to the Knicks. He’s every bit the intriguing prospect of Towns, Okafor, Russell and Winston. But if he’s as much of a project as people say, then there’s a lot to be worried about with this player on these Knicks. The fans won’t wait, and neither does the owner. If Phil walks before Kris explodes, we may never see it happen in Orange and Blue.
So for now, this draft is over. In 2019, we’ll see what Kristaps turns out to be. If he’s great, I just pray he’s still doing it in a Knick uniform, and we aren’t back in the lottery looking for the next big project to ship to some other address.
Man…my brain hurts..I’m going to bed…hopefully when I wake up, Dolan will too…
By Brian C. Mack