Culture of Hoops

Kristaps Porzingis Making New York Forget Melo

Screen capture courtesy of the NBA/YouTube.

Screen capture courtesy of the NBA/YouTube.

Kristaps Porzingis is adoringly known as “the unicorn” and right now, Porzingis is contorting his head, waving his horn and working some magic on the basketball court. Look at the NBA odds for the season, particularly before the campaign began and not many people thought the New York Knicks would do well without Carmelo Anthony, whom the Knicks traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Sure, Kristaps was a good player, but he was too young and inexperienced to put a team on his back and lead them to any hope of playoff relevance. Well, currently sitting at 7-5 (as of this writing), the Knicks lay claim to the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. It seems that, not only does Porzingis have a magical horn, but it seems, also a magical back.

In previous seasons, the Knicks relied heavily on Anthony being an offensive force with role players picking up the rest of the slack. A role player is what Porzingis used to be, but now he has Knicks fans forgetting the Melo Days and is firmly the man. Averaging 30.4 points a game, Porzingis is the second-leading scorer in the NBA behind Giannis Atetokounmpo’s 31.7. He’s shooting 51.3 percent from the floor, 84.1 percent from the free-throw line, hitting 2.1 three-pointers per game, and grabbing 7.3 rebounds. Defensively, he’s third in the NBA with 2.3 blocks per game and looking at advanced stats, his 30.6 PER doubles the standard rate of 15.0. Porzingis has also played clutch as evidenced below:

After starting the season 0-3, many wrote off the Knicks as actually being worse than they thought. Definitely a doom and gloom scenario was being written. Then they got their first win against the Brooklyn Nets, whom they lost both preseason games to. Then a big road win versus the Cleveland Cavaliers, who they play again on Monday night. Then a solid three-game streak of dubs after beating the Denver Nuggets. A loss to the Houston Rockets was followed by another three-game win streak (Phoenix Suns, Indiana Pacers, Charlotte Hornets). That was followed by a loss on the road to the Orlando Magic, but a bounce-back win at home over the Sacramento Kings. A very good 7-3 after the bad start and it seems like the Knicks are on a solid base moving forward.

But, a soon-to-be legitimate superstar needs his role players the way Melo had his. Offseason free agent signee, Tim Hardaway, Jr. is scoring at a nice clip of 16.3 points and leads the Knicks with 2.3 triples made per contest. However, his 39.7 FG%, including 29.0 percent from beyond arch (with more than half his shots coming from there) is not very good. If he improves his percentages, the Knicks will be even more dangerous. Worth the money he got paid? Probably not, but let’s measure the contract by dubs and Ls. Both players acquired for Melo are playing pretty well. Enes Kanter is averaging 13.6 points and leads the Knicks, taking down 10.6 rebounds in only 25.1 minutes with an excellent 24.5 PER. Doug McDermott is a valuable bench scorer (8.7 points) and floor spacer (1.3 threes a game on 44.1 percent shooting from deep).

Things are looking up for the Knicks and it all starts with that magical beast, Kristaps Porzingis.

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