Why Knicks pursuing Kristaps Porzingis wouldn’t be crazy
As the Knicks turn towards the offseason, many are speculating as to who they might pursue to upgrade their roster. Among many of the calls for specific trades and signings, one unexpected name has emerged as a potential target of some of the fanbase: Kristaps Porzingis.
Reacting with an eye roll or scoff is understandable, given the profile. New York traded Porzingis, who had internal issues with the team, while he rehabbed an ACL tear, and he’s since fallen short of All-Star expectations and been constantly hurt.
That said, he’s matured and expressed regret about how his Knicks career ended and, not to mention, put up career numbers in 65 games this season. Is a reunion with the 27-year-old completely crazy?
To take a step back, Porzingis averaged 23.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists, 1.5 blocks and 0.9 steals per game on 55.9 percent shooting from two and 38.5 percent from downtown. He has a player option for the 2023-24 season worth $36 million or can become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Why would the Knicks be interested? For starters, that’s an impressive line and strong production out of Porzingis, who fits the bill as to certain things they want to improve on.
The takeaway from this playoff run is New York needs a little more offensive dynamism, more shooting and simply more talent. Porzingis happens to supply all three.
So often during that Heat series, the Knicks offense struggled with poor spacing, as Miami overloaded the paint and their ball handlers. Mitchell Robinson isn’t a short-roll threat, often getting the ball and getting stuck above the foul line, and when combined with another non-shooter leaves no room for Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson to cook.
Porzingis is a dependable three-point shooter, with a 36 percent average on his career and the ability to make them a step or two beyond the arc, dragging opposing big men out with him. He’s much more skilled than the Knicks’ current fives in making 4-on-3 plays out of the mid-range, having the touch to finish or the ability to make the right pass.
Teams will put a wing on him or switch his picks if he’s capitalizing on too many easy ones, but Porzingis has shown the ability to punish smalls one-on-one, even if he can’t fully get them under the rim. Off misses, he’s long enough to contribute to New York’s patented offensive rebounding, though he doesn’t collect as many as their current centers.
Defensively, Porzingis isn’t nearly the impact guy Robinson or even Isaiah Hartenstein is. That said, he puts in the effort, has the length and will be surrounded by enough strong defenders to avoid being a liability.
This isn’t to suggest he’ll replace Robinson as the five in the lineup. What he’ll do is allow Tom Thibodeau to turn to a more offense-centric, spaced out look with him at the center for around 20 minutes a game, then slide down a position and take Obi Toppin’s backup four minutes to get him to 30.
This gives the Knicks a lot of optionality without messing with their rotation too much, and the ability to bail if this twist doesn’t work as hoped. Acquiring him shouldn’t be too difficult either.
New York can offload some of their dead salaries like Evan Fournier, package Toppin and maybe a pick to secure the former Knick. Should he opt into free agency, it will be a bit trickier and have to involve dealing away Fournier anyway, but shouldn’t be impossible if Porzingis is open to a reasonable deal.
New York has limited paths to contention and will need to plug the rotation with savvy upgrades that address fundamental needs. It’s easy to write off Porzingis due to his history and injury troubles, but from an objective view, he should be somebody the Knicks consider.