The attribute that most makes Kristaps Porzingis such an intriguing prospect is also the one Phil Jackson says could doom the 19-year-old. Even so, the New York Knicks president is still expecting, very, very big things from the No. 4 pick in the 2015 draft.
In a must-read chat with Charley Rosen of ESPN, Jackson detailed why he’s so excited about the potential of Porzingis – and gave Knicks fans a new reason to fret about their team’s lottery choice, too.
Here’s the Zen Master:
“Like Shawn Bradley, who was nevertheless a pretty good player, KP might almost be too tall for the game. What I mean is that his core strength might never be good enough, and that he might not be able to get low enough to get himself into prime defensive position to body power rebounders or drivers.”
Initial reports suggested the Latvian teenager was just a shade over seven-feet tall. After he wowed spectators at a Las Vegas workout in June, though, Porzingis measured substantially longer than first anticipated: 7’3 in shoes with a 7’6 wingspan. And before considering the Shawn Bradley comparison, it’s important to note that he weighs 233 pounds, too.
Jackson’s concerns are valid. The list of successful players his height is short. Big men are more prone to injury than others, a reality especially true of those who push the limits of extreme length and a lack of girth. Porzingis, obviously, fits that bill, but he’s not Bradley.
The 7’6 journeyman best known for getting posterized owns that distinction for a reason. Bradley just couldn’t move laterally, an almost inevitable physical flaw that Jackson says doesn’t afflict Porzingis.
“[Porzingis] showed an amazing athleticism for somebody his size… On defense, he can block shots from behind and is quick enough to stay in front of guards in screen-roll situations.”
Offense is what originally got people excited about Porzingis. He’s an effortless shooter and more comfortable with the ball in his hands than the vast majority of players his size. But it’s on the other end where Porzingis will make his presence felt immediately, and that’s precisely because of his extremely rare blend of length and mobility.
Will there be times when he gets roasted by quicker guards in pick-and-roll? Definitely. Will he be frequently bullied while battling for post and rebounding position? Of course. Porzingis, however, has the physical makeup to make a positive defensive impact from the beginning. If he grasps the Knicks’ scheme and makes a concerted effort to limit problematic natural inclinations, Porzingis has all-league potential on the defensive side of the ball.
That is the most important takeaway from Jackson’s assessment, not the headline-grabbing comparison to Bradley.