The New York Knicks continue to maneuver through a full roster rebuild around their own rising star in Kristaps Porzingis. Here are five goals for him to achieve and find his way to success during the 2017-18 regular season.
Fortunately, the New York Knicks (now there is a statement you don’t normally start with) find themselves at least a few steps toward a full vision of what their rebuilt team will look like in a couple of seasons. While Carmelo Anthony has yet to find his final destination, all signs point to a full rebuild focused around Kristaps Porzingis.
With Phil Jackson‘s departure from the New York Knicks shortly after the draft this summer, it turns out they still ended up with the triangle-esque point guard they were looking for in Frank Ntilikina. It turns out to not be all that bad, even if the Knicks are no longer running the triangle, since Ntilikina also has high upside on the defensive end.
Tim Hardaway Jr. is making his return to the Knicks since beginning his career there, completing what the Knicks were focusing on rebuilding with: youth.
Kristaps Porzingis is expected to be the leader of this hopeful and dynamic set of players. However the lines can be blurred for as long as Carmelo Anthony’s role remains uncertain in New York, cutting in on time for Porzingis to have the ball in his hands more often.
Amid all the drama, Porzingis will look to revitalize an often disappointed and let-down New York Knicks fanbase. Here are five goals ensuring Kristaps Porzingis’ success for the 2017-18 regular season.
5.Play to the finish
Kristaps Porzingis cannot help the Knicks if he is finishing out close games on the bench as the result of fouling out. He had the honor of finishing with the 10th most personal fouls for the 2016-17 regular season with 244 — an average 3.7 per game.
His advantage of being the biggest man on the court at times makes himself vulnerable to be drawn into fouls from his opponents. Often he does not contest straight up and is caught jumping into his defender, resulting in foul calls for even the slightest bit of contact.
During the six games Porzingis fouled out of during the 2016-17 season, the Knicks’ lost three of those games and they were lost by two points, three points and eight points.
Even though the New York Knicks’ still finished 10 games out of the eighth seed last season, every game counts and it drastically changes the course of the game when Porzingis is in foul trouble early.
In total he finished the season with 13 games in which he committed five fouls, and 33 games where he committed 3-4 fouls. The Knicks’ are obviously in better shape if Kristaps Porzingis is on the court and he should look to remove this major flaw in his game sooner rather than later.
4. Play at All-Star level in breakout year
Kristaps Porzingis in entering his third year and has shown improvement in his game since his first NBA start. However, the longer Carmelo Anthony remains on the team, it noticeably hinders the way Porzingis approaches the game.
While Porzingis has played at the 4-spot 75 percent of the time over his two seasons in the NBA, he averaged 14.9 attempts from the field last season shooting at an effective 43.6 percent. He is dynamic also with some smooth moves in the paint for his outstanding size and is becoming increasingly better from beyond the arc.
As a fan it hurts to say Carmelo has never developed into anything more than a true scorer and one of the best at his style of play, but he simply does not help off the ball or on defense. Porzingis does not need much room to create a shot for himself and having more help from a forward on the court would lead to a much more productive Porzingis.
Kristaps Porzingis averaged 18.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game last season. He slightly regressed from the free throw line, hitting just 78.6 of his attempts compared to 83.8 during the 2015-16 season.
The new expectation for Porzingis is to be better than just the future leader of the Knicks; he needs to play like that leader starting this season. The challenge and second goal for his 2017-18 season should be remaining the efficient scorer he’s been so far and improving on the boards to reach an average of a double-double each night.
3. Put the distractions and excuses to rest
The New York Knicks have had nothing but distractions over the past several years but especially from just the past two seasons up until Phil Jackson’s departure this summer. Now the Knicks have a relatively clean slate and now there are no excuses or reasons to pass the buck on any shortcomings in the future.
Every player on the Knicks roster will be out to prove their future and long-term value this season. This goes for Kristaps Porzingis as well, who needs to put the past behind him and just focus on basketball moving forward.
Despite some recent negative headlines regarding Porzingis and Jeff Hornacek, unneccessary negative headlines now need to be avoided as there are more important matters to tend to.
This also includes Porzingis to remain hungry to develop into the All-Star caliber player he is, as well as making sure he can remain healthy as possible. Last year a nagging Achilles Injury had Porzingis absent much more than desired, only playing appearing in 66 of 82 games last season.
This year, Kristaps Porzingis needs to find his way to an 80-game season to prove he can be durable for not just the regular season, but for a handful of hopeful playoff runs by the time the Knicks get their act together.
Kristaps Porzingis is essentially now playing for a serious payday after the next two seasons, and will need to provide positive results very soon.
2. Keep them guessing offense
Kristaps Porzingis is a hybrid versatile player that only comes around every so often in today’s NBA. He stands at 7’3″ and can frustrate opponents from the inside, outside and is even solid at handling the ball where most players his size normally have difficulty with simple dribbling.
On average, Kristaps Porzingis shoots 13.7 feet from the basket over his career. A more detailed of breakdown of his shot selection is that 21.1 percent of his attempts come from within three feet of the basket, but also 18.2 percent of his attempts fall between 10-16 feet of the basket. Not only is he efficient from all areas of the court, but he has proven comfortable when reviewing his shot selection.
While he can use improvement still from the 3-point line, he should consider attempts more often from the corner. Last year only 11.1 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc came from the corner, but he nailed 42.9 percent of those shots.
He has shown improvement on his ability to draw fouls too. He played six fewer games than he had in his rookie year, but he drew a total of 21 more fouls. Porzingis struggles on his part of committing fouls on defense, but he should at least cause a frustrating amount for his opponents as well given his size and potential dominance inside.
If Kristaps Porzingis continues to expand his range and remain effective on the inside, it makes him that much harder to defend night in and night out.
1. Adapt to playing center
The New York Knicks currently have no shortage of big men on their roster. As of now, they have Kristaps Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez, Joakim Noah and Kyle O’ Quinn, who can all play at the 5 at any given point this season. While some teams have adapted small-ball rotations with big men being capable of hitting beyond the arc, the Knicks on paper have an exceptional looking defensive set.
While it is possible there will be a trade of some magnitude given the depth there (as well as at shooting guard), there are benefits of Porzingis being able to play at the 5-spot.
In either position, Porzingis will likely over-match whoever his opponent is most nights, but it is also another form of keeping the other team guessing and forcing their players to play to the Knicks style on the court.
From committing fewer fouls to expanding his range and being patient with the current rebuild, Kristaps has the daunting task of attempting to lead one of the NBA’s biggest failed franchises back to prominence.
It allows the potential for an even more dynamic bench defensively, while also sparing Porzingis with having to keep up with some of the faster and more athletic forwards in the league that are not over seven feet tall.