In the 2015 NBA draft, the New York Knicks drafted the unicorn, but in the summer of 2016 the front office might have stunted its growth. At the draft, Knick fans rain down boos on the young 20 year old Latvian Kristaps Porzingis and his response is what any team would want. In his first interview after being drafted he was asked about the fans booing and he acknowledged it was his job to turn those boos into cheers. As the season went on the Knicks realized they had struck gold. In a bid to make the playoffs this season the Knicks may have sacrificed their future.
This past offseason the Knicks front office headed by Phil Jackson gave Joakim Noah $74 Million over four years, traded for Derrick Rose, and added Courtney Lee in a bid to make the playoffs. The oft-injured Noah played in only 29 games before having season ending shoulder surgery, while Rose is still trying to regain his old form. Pairing these players with Carmelo Anthony and Porzingis, the Knicks feel like they have a legitimate shot at making a return to the playoffs. The projections have been all over the spectrum for the Knicks, some have them playoff bound and others have them in the lottery.
In the front office’s quest to make the playoffs, they might have delayed the development of Porzingis. In his rookie campaign, he averaged 14 points, 7 rebounds, while shooting 33% from three. He was named to the all rookie first team and has received praise from his peers such as Kevin Durant. It is Durant who lovingly gave him the nickname the unicorn when describing his game. Porzingis is capable of shooting the three ball, posting up on the block, and is a beast on the glass. At 7’3” he can develop into a defensive force, averaging 1.9 blocks in his rookie campaign. The biggest weakness in his game is his lack of strength, but that is a problem that time itself will fix.
The future of the Knicks rest on Porzingis’ shoulders but the recent acquisitions will make it difficult for him to breakout. Anthony already is a high usage player with a career average of 31.6% (usage percentage is the estimate of the percentage of the team plays are used by the player while he is on the court), Rose brings with him 28.2% usage rate and is a ball dominant point guard. This probably makes Porzingis the third option on offense when the Knicks should be grooming him to be their lead guy.
The Knicks haven’t made the playoffs since 2013 and are very eager to get back into the playoff discussion in the Eastern conference. The moves they have made have been with that in mind and have been less focused on developing their young talent. It is unclear if this is a playoff roster but it certainly is not a championship one. With the organization being in such a hurry to get in the playoffs they may have delayed the growth of their next franchise player, Kristaps Porzingis, their unicorn.
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