The New York Knicks made a big splash in free agency this summer. By trading for Derrick Rose and through the acquisitions of Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, and Brandon Jennings, fans and pundits alike are placing the Knicks among the top teams in the Eastern Conference. As a Knicks fan, it’s easy be excited for the coming season being that we haven’t had a winning record since 2012.
Amidst the elation and eagerness for the upcoming year, I began to feel uneasy when I thought about how this would affect our Eastern European star (not you, Sasha Vujacic). By going out and attaining all these big name players and potent offensive weapons, are the Knicks risking hurting the development of Kristaps Porzingis? After all, the Knicks front office agreed that it was imperative to build this team around the Latvia native.
Porzingis is entering an important year for his career. Will he fall into the “sophomore slump” or build off an impressive rookie campaign? Regression is not an option if he wants to be the next Dirk Nowitzki, so the key question is if Porzingis will be given enough offensive opportunities to improve. Melo and D-Rose like to shoot the ball–that’s evident in their respective 19.6 and 17.0 average field-goal attempt totals, and that doesn’t bode well for developing a big man. Like I have stated before with Dwight Howard, it’s easy to go through the motions and feel reticent as a big man when you don’t get offensive touches. If Porzingis gets lost in the crowd while Melo and Rose are hoisting up all the shots, how can we expect him to develop?
It’s easy to see how one can be worried about Porzingis after the Knicks’ overhaul. Melo, Noah, and Rose’s best days are likely behind them, but Kristaps is a budding star. Looking more into it, I don’t think we should really be that worried. First reason being, and a year ago I never thought I would say this, is that I trust Phil Jackson. The Zen Master has done some questionable things with this Knicks team, but as of late he’s making all the right moves. And perhaps his best move during his tenure with the Knicks was taking a chance on drafting Porzingis. I think that even though the Knicks are in a “win now” mode, Phil Jackson will make sure to keep Porzingis on the right track.
The triangle offense is a system that requires involvement from big men, and typically they flourish because of it. To name some examples, just look at the careers of Pau Gasol, Shaquille O’Neil, and Dennis Rodman while operating in the triangle. Hell, the system even made Andrew Bynum look good. Porzingis will fit into this year’s Knicks offense really well because even if Jeff Hornacek employs parts of the offense he ran in Phoenix, Porzingis is more than adept at shooting the three ball.
Moreover, I think the addition of Joakim Noah will do nothing but help Porzingis’s growth and development. The New York City native is one of the best teammates in the league and he is committed to making the players around him better. He is one of the better passing centers in the league and displays a wide array of post moves to go along with his aggressive play style. What are the two areas in which Porzingis needs the most improvement in? Aggressiveness and post moves; two facets of being a dominant big man that Noah excels in. Not to mention, Porzingis was successful playing with Robin Lopez last season and Noah is similar to Lopez in that they are both defensive-minded centers.
The sky is the limit for Porzingis. If he continues to grow and develop like we all hope he will, he has a long, successful career ahead of him. Looking at his present situation, he has a chance to be a part of a team that could find themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference. The NBA season cannot come soon enough.