When the New York Knicks selected Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth overall pick of the 2014 draft, a smatter of boos fell from the rafters at Barclays Arena. Porzingis was a relatively unknown commodity hailing from Latvia and playing professionally in Spain. The Knicks faithful wanted a proven college player like Jahlil Okafor or D’Angelo Russell to fall to them, but they were left with a 7’3 mystery player. Kristaps, like many tall European prospects before him, had the “next Dirk Nowitzki” tag placed upon him. There’s an elephant’s graveyard filled with these prospects, but through 12 games, Porzingis looks like he will bust through that trope.
Porzingis has played with a force on both ends of the floor that’s rare for a 20-year-old rook. The soft label is a tired cliché for European players and he continues to show why. He’s become known for his vicious putback dunks and his tenacious rebounding ability. His production this season has received ample amounts of praise, including this shining assessment from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst:
“I have not been excited about a European player like this in anytime I’ve covered the NBA, which is 14 years now. This is the most remarkable, NBA-ready European project and he’s 19 years old. The excitement is 100 percent justified.”
14 years would date back to 2001, when another rookie European big man was taking the league by storm: Pau Gasol.
Windhorst’s comments do not seem hyperbolic in the least bit. Porzingis already has a signature performance to hang his hat on. He put up 29 points and 11 rebounds against the Charlotte Hornets at the hallowed grounds of Madison Square Garden. As Kristaps stepped to the free throw line in the last minute of the game, a Porzingis chant reverberated throughout The Garden.
Needless to say, KP can sleep well at night knowing that he’s been fully accepted by Knicks fans everywhere – and national writers across the country, too.