Kristaps Porzingis: Phil Jackson’s Masterstroke?

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Updated: June 28, 2015
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The 2015 NBA draft has just wrapped up and as usual, a large majority of New York is absolutely livid. While most just seem to be angry due to the fact that they’re Knicks fans, a large faction of these exasperated New Yorkers stems from Phil Jackson selecting international man of mystery Kristaps Porzingis with the number 4 overall pick. From the crying, selfie taking child to the slew of orange and blue clad men furiously booing Adam Silver’s voice, the reaction could not have made for a particularly encouraging impression on young Kristaps.

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However while the risk factor is high with this pick, the Knicks may have just pulled off what could be the masterstroke of the decade by taking the lanky Latvian. 

The flop potential is definitely there, but Porzingis’ upside is absolutely scintillating. With his monstrous 7’2  frame (some are saying he may be even taller), a well honed silky jump-shot and the ability to run the floor like a shooting guard, the sky is the limit for him should his career pan the way scouts reckon it might. At just 19 years of age, he has all the time in the world to achieve such heights, and should contribute to the Knicks right away with his size and shooting ability.

Phil Jackson seemed keenly aware of Porzingis’ potential, stating “it was the best upside available to us. We understand it may take a year, but he’s willing to work.”  Jackson went on to compare him to a young Pau Gasol, saying he has perhaps even better range than the Spaniard did when he first entered the league. It seems the Zen Master has the utmost faith in Porzingis. With the backing of someone as distinguished and knowledgable as the eleven time NBA champion, who are we not to follow suit. 

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Additionally, the Knicks simply had to make a pick as gutsy as this one. While someone such as Emmanuel Muday, Justise Winslow or Willie Cauley-Stein would have made an immediate impact for a team in a slightly better situation, the fact of the matter is that the Knicks suck. Like, really, really suck.

On a team as talentless as theirs, the only response was to draft the player with the most talent. That player was Porzingis. Should the gamble fail, the Knicks will simply be in the same position they’re in right now. They can’t get much worse, and without significantly more firepower, none of the other options they could have taken would have changed that.

Should it succeed however, we could be looking at a bona fide superstar ready to carry New York into a new era on his shoulders. In those situations, you simply have to yell screw it and jump into the deep end. And with the talent, drive and character that Porzingis is blessed with, the odds that he prevails in the big apple are much higher than what most onlookers are letting on.

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While the Knicks could have selected a more NBA ready prospect or swapped their pick for an established veteran, neither of those options could have saved the club from continuing their losing ways. New York is just about to start a major rebuilding process, one that can’t possibly be solved over the course of a few months.

Regardless of who they drafted, the Knicks would still likely tally another underwhelming season, with a low playoff seed the absolute best case scenario fans could hope for. Phil Jackson can afford to draft a project because he has the one thing all projects need: Time.

With the Knicks unlikely to compete for a high playoff spot for at least a few seasons, Porzingis has ample space to develop both his game and physique before being truly required to act as a star player. The 19-year-old will benefit greatly from such a situation, having one of the best basketball minds in history to help mould him into Europe’s next superstar.

Provided the city of New York stays patient and takes a step back while he does so (which I admit, is not the likeliest of scenarios), Porzingis should eventually come good on his promise to “turn those booing fans into clapping fans.” It all rest in the Latvian teenager’s gigantic hands. 

The boos may have told an entire story on their own, however Knicks fans could very well find themselves changing their tune shortly. While Kristaps Porzingis does posses the bust potential that all European prospects seem to have, he also has the ability to develop into a tremendous NBA player.

Couple his momentous upside with an ideal situation in New York, and he may eventually find himself spoken in the same company as overseas greats such as Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol. The Latvian will certainly be a major project for the Knicks, and odds are he won’t display the symptoms of stardom right away. Yet the signs are there already, and should be evident to the rest of the league imminently: Kristaps Porzingis may be the NBA’s next big thing.

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