UPDATE: Carmelo Anthony’s (alleged) reaction to Knicks’ pick of Porzingis:
“[Carmelo] feels completely hoodwinked and betrayed by Phil Jackson. He feels like he was lied to, like he was sold a bill of goods. And he’s willing to concede that he wanted his money. But he didn’t know it was going to be like this. He didn’t know it was going to be this bad. And he can’t believe that his second season under the Phil Jackson regime, he has to look forward to it being worse than even last year was.”
-Stephen A. Smith
Wow. No one expected the lottery to get that crazy. Not only did the Lakers take D’Angelo Russell at 2, but Jahlil Okafor (who many, including myself, expected to go to LA or the Knicks) apparently will stay in Philadelphia with fellow lottery big men Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid. We at Reunion Lights are curious to how those rotations and floor spacing would work, if at all. The biggest surprise though, was Kristaps Porzingis being taken by the New York Knicks at pick 4 while Emmanuel Mudiay and Mario Hezonja, who we at RL believe would have been a better choice, were still on the board. This surprise was preceded by reports that Phil Jackson really took a liking to Frank Kaminsky, but in my mock draft predictions yesterday, I predicted Jackson would take the Latvian prospect with his lottery pick. Why? Because he’s a great shooter, and Jackson was interested in him, but mainly because the report came so late that it seemed to be a fake out (as I thought the Russell pick was, but it turned out wasn’t).
Most NBA fans really didn’t love the pick, highlighted by this clip of a young Knicks fan making his disappointment known. However, Porzingis was likely for the lottery, and he has a huge amount of potential. So he isn’t so much a bad pick as much as a bad fit.
The Latvian prospect clearly lacks toughness- so you can expect his rebounds to go down once he plays on the NBA level. This also means that finishing at the rim will not be a strong point for Porzingis even as he develops. Remember- these are physical tools, not things he can necessarily work on to get better. His defense is a bit more promising for a stretch 4. He isn’t a lock down defender by any means, but he has lateral quickness. The issue with Kristaps is that he has poor defensive fundamentals, something that New York’s coaching staff doesn’t really teach to an elite level.
Don’t mistake this for a shot at the Knicks or Porzingis, few international leagues require lockdown defense at the 4 in order to remain competitive. Plus, Porzingis is a very reliable shooter outside of the post and paint. He lacks the physical ability and body control of a decent finisher and his footwork in the post isn’t exceptional like a Dirk Nowitzki or Pau Gasol, so he is already at a disadvantage when coming in. He shies away from contact and lacks the awareness of his defender to turn tough defense against him into points. The dead-eye nature of his play means that, barring injury, he will be at least a solid role player in the NBA, but he isn’t a good enough perimeter defender to be the type of “3 & D” player that is so highly valued in the league. Even so, lack of NBA ready post play is a bad sign in a lottery 4 pick.
If the Knicks’ plan on building around Kristaps Porzingis, it certainly won’t be easy. First off, he doesn’t mesh with Melo- at all. Then Phil Jackson’s next hire should be a defensive coach to work with Kristaps on his fundamentals, in order to make him as close to an average of a defender as possible.
But what should Jackson have done to better the Knicks now? Draft Emmanuel Mudiay. He’s athletic, a good defender, a great rebounder for his position, has spectacular court vision due to his height, and was available at the 4th pick. You pair him with Melo, and their skillsets fit well, spacing would be terrific, and Anthony carries a smaller burden. Its very difficult to see a reason why not to draft Mudiay, but perhaps Phil Jackson and the Knicks management saw something different than we did, maybe not. We won’t know for months, likely years, but the Knicks’ fourth pick has many scratching heads, and it’s tough not to be disappointed.