Kristaps Porzingis carrying the Knicks to the playoffs?
Don’t look now but the New York Knicks are 6-5, that’s tied for 6th in the East. Coming into this season the talk was about the re-build after the Melo trade. There were even some whispers about tanking for high draft picks. No one not even their own fans would pick the Knicks to be relevant or even entertain the idea of making the playoffs. Most figured it would take a few years to let some of the young talent develop before becoming a good team. Where have we heard those statements before? Oh that’s right the team that plays in the Bronx. The Yankees, who played a Game 7 in the ALCS, also had a young core that was expected to take a few years to grow. But that changed the day Aaron Judge hit his first home run. These Knicks look very similar to that Yankee team, led by a freak of a nature of their own, in “the unicorn”.
Like Yankee stadium has re-awakened, the Garden has found new energy. You can hear MVP, MVP, MVP chants raining down on the Garden floor as Kristaps Porzingis puts on a show each night. Like those MVP chants, it’s way too early to consider the Knicks a playoff contender, there is still over 70 games to play. We don’t really get an idea about any team until the quarter mark or 20-22 games. The play of Porzingis makes you pause and consider that playoffs could be a possibility.
Porzingis at 7’3 having moves like a wing or guard make the Knicks a hot ticket every night. The irony is that Phil Jackson was trying to trade Porzingis all summer, thank god that did not happen. Many even myself included speculated that without Carmelo Anthony, he would struggle. We were all wrong.
30.2PPG 7.8RPG 2.2BLK PER 28.72
He is right now #2 in scoring, Top 5 in both Blocks and PER. He also shoots 37% from the three-point line. Porzingis also leads all NBA players in 30-point games with 7. The biggest growth has been in the usage department as he has seen an increase of 11% and that has not even slowed down his offensive efficiency, it actually went up from 104.6 to 105.7. In fact his net rating has come to the positive for the first time in his career at 2.1. The driving factor of that has been his defense, which has gotten significantly better. That along with his iso game has to be the biggest surprise. Both have gone to another level and that has shown in the overall numbers.
The stats are nice and all but if you take a step back and look at the Eastern Conference there is an opportunity to make the playoffs. Clearly the Celtics, Bucks, Raptors, Wizards and Cavs are the best teams. They all should make it. I really like what the Magic and Sixers are doing as a team. That leaves you with 1 realistic spot for the Knicks to steal. In basketball having the best players usually translates to winning success. In the East LeBron, Giannis, Embid, Simmons and Irving are the only guys you can make a cases for being as good or better than Porzingis. At the worst the Knicks have the 6th best player in the East and that is a major advantage.
Overall the numbers for the Knicks as a team are only average at best, nothing special. They are an above average team on defense and a slightly below average team on offense. Coming into the year, I would have thought they would have struggled on both ends. Porzingis’s dominance early on has eased any worries on the offensive side of the ball. On defense the addition of Frank Ntilikina should look even better as the season progresses. He already is causing havoc in limited minutes. As he gains more confidence and the minutes increase, the Knicks team defense should get even better. This team is on the rise and the scary part is that they have not even reached their ceiling.
Lastly, the Knicks are finally fun to watch again. With some of the young talents, it’s clear to see the direction of this team. Clearly Porzingis’s growth has helped the Knicks become relevant again and sped up the process. His success as a player has translated to winning, which is what counts most in NY. So why cant this upstart Knicks team surprise everyone and make the playoffs?