NBA Draft Prospect of the Week: Kristaps Porzingis March 6, 2015 Kristaps Porzingis made himself eligible for the 2014 NBA Draft last April, but made the unconventional decision to pull out at the Early Entry Withdrawal Deadline (ten days before the draft), despite overtures from two teams (rumored to be Atlanta and Philadelphia) picking in the Top-15 to keep his name in. Porzingis and his family reportedly felt he would benefit from another year of experience playing with Seville in the ACB, and while that move looked risky at the time, he only appears to have helped his draft stock with a very strong season so far in Spain and in the EuroCup.
Porzingis is one of the most unique players in this draft class, showing an impressive combination of height, length, fluidity and skills. He's very mobile for his size, capable of playing above the rim with ease and able to cover ground quickly moving from the perimeter to the paint.
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Besides his physical attributes, the most appealing part of Porzingis' game revolves around his feathery touch from the perimeter. He has beautiful shooting mechanics, complete with deep range, a quick release, and the ability to make shots either coming off screens or as a floor-spacer with his feet set. It's virtually impossible to contest his shot at over 7-feet with his high release point, and he's hitting an outstanding 43% of his 136 catch and shoot attempts thus far this season, including 38% of his 3-pointers (33/87 in 38 games). If the defense closes out too aggressively, he can put the ball down in a straight line and make his way to the basket, sometimes for a very impressive finish.
While Porzingis is still working on becoming a consistently accurate threat in game situations (he didn't make a three-pointer in half of his games this year), he has a tantalizing stroke that can be honed into a dangerous weapon long term. His ability to space the floor at his size from the power forward position is exactly what many NBA teams are looking for right now, and there's only one other player over 6-9 in our Top-100 rankings (Frank Kaminsky) shooting over 30% from beyond the arc on more than one attempt per game.
Porzingis' size allows him to do some interesting things in the mid-range area as well, as you'll often see him making difficult turnaround and fadeaway jumpers with relative ease, showing impressive footwork and touch. He'll shock you with some of the plays he makes at times, executing moves that only a handful of players his size on the planet can pull off.
Although he's far from being a finished product on this end of the floor, Porzingis also shows interesting potential defensively, evidenced by his 1.5 steals and 2 block averages per-40 minutes. His combination of size, length and mobility gives him impressive versatility on the pick and roll, allowing him to hedge out past the 3-point line and still recover in time to make a play in the paint for example. He's also agile enough to switch and stay in front of smaller players if called upon, giving his team the type of positional flexibility every coaching staff in the NBA covets greatly these days.
On the downside, Porzingis still looks a long ways away from reaching his full potential here, starting with his body, which remains very frail and could make him susceptible to injuries if not developed carefully. He also lacks something in the ways of toughness and awareness, as he tends to avoid contact in the paint and regularly gets pushed around on the interior, not always offering up as much resistance as you might hope. The game moves a little too fast for him at times, and he doesn't appear to be the quickest thinker around, often looking a half-step slow in his reaction time. All of these things show up in his surprisingly pedestrian rebounding numbers (2.4 offensive and 5.8 defensive per-40).
Porzingis also isn't a great passer, dishing out just 41 assists in his last 1813 minutes of action over the the last three years (spanning the ACB, EuroCup, NIJT and U18 European Championship), or one assist for every 44 minutes he plays. His assist percentage this season (and over the course of career) is one of the lowest of any player in this draft class, which is not ideal for a stretch-4 that teams may hope to run a significant amount of offense through on the perimeter.
While Porzingis' superior size for his position is certainly attractive, at the moment he has very few ways of utilizing his height to his advantage besides his shooting stroke, as he has no back to the basket game and very little interest in playing inside the paint.
With that said, it's important to remember that Porzingis is still only 19 years old, not turning 20 until after this year's draft (in August). He has two years of high-level experience already playing in the toughest domestic league in the world outside of the NBA, and is still only scratching the surface of how good he can become. His unique combination of size, skills and mobility at 7-1 gives him incredible potential to grow into in time, even if more-so than any other prospect in the draft possibly, he needs to land in the right situation in the draft.
At 7-1, with a frail frame, and the shooting stroke of a guard, Porzingis doesn't have a crystal clear role in the NBA right now, at least not in a traditional sense, and certainly not in the short term. If his first coach in the NBA doesn't appreciate his skill-set, and isn't ready to be patient and work through his limitations, he could struggle badly to get minutes early on. Getting with the right coach, roster and organization who can develop him will play a huge role in the success he has in the NBA. [Read Full Article] Kristaps Porzingis vs Barcelona Video Analysis December 12, 2014
Porzingis was discovered in Latvia in 2010 when he was 15-years old and already 6-8. Despite his youth, he moved to Spain to sign with Cajasol Sevilla, where he's been playing for four years already. He's grown significantly through the years and is now listed as being 7-feet tall. In addition to his tremendous size he also sports a very long wingspan and a frame that looks like it can carry plenty of weight as he matures physically.
Porzingis is extremely athletic for a player his size. He runs the floor well, is very mobile, and plays above the rim with ease. His big, long strides allow him to cover a huge amount of ground, as you often see him running stride for stride with players much smaller than him, which helps him as a rim-runner in transition and defensively on the pick and roll.
Porzingis shows intriguing versatility offensively, as he has a unique skill-set that allows him to operate comfortably facing the basket. He has good shooting mechanics and range that extends out to the 3-point line, even if he is not a consistent shooter at this point in time. He's also a good ball-handler, being capable of taking his man off the dribble with either hand from the high post or beyond the 3-point line.
Additionally, Porzingis has soft hands that make him an excellent target for lobs when accounting for his quickness, length and ability to play above the rim. He has good touch around the basket with either hand, and can hit turnaround and fadeaway jumpers from the post impressively.
Besides the potential he shows as an athletic “stretch four,” Porzinigis also possesses another coveted attribute in his shot-blocking ability. The 6.6 blocks he averaged per-40 minutes this past summer at the U18 European Championship is the highest rate of any player in our database since 2012 by a wide margin. His 2.9 blocks per-40 is also the third best rate in the past fifteen seasons in Spain among players under the age of 20 (better than what current NBA per-minute shot-blocking leader Serge Ibaka averaged at the same age for example).
Porzingis' length, mobility and instincts give him great potential in general on this end of the floor. Despite his size, he has no problem covering most power forwards on the perimeter, as he does an excellent job of staying in front thanks to his terrific lateral quickness, and uses his length to contest shots effectively. He is also very adept at hedging screens well beyond the 3-point line, still being able to recover quickly enough to make a play at the rim, as he understands the concept of verticality quite well. Additionally, he uses his quickness to get in the passing lanes prolifically, averaging 1.7 steals per-40 minutes.
On the downside, Porzingis' lack of strength and experience can be taken advantage of fairly easily by older and more physically mature players. His lower body in particular is underdeveloped, as he gets backed down fairly easily inside the paint, and is very foul prone at this stage at over 7 fouls per-40 minutes. He's also a poor defensive rebounder at just 4.7 per-40, something he should be better at considering his length and athleticism.
Porzingis isn't the toughest guy you'll find right now, which plays against him with his ability to finish effectively around the basket in traffic. He's converted just 49% of his attempts around the rim this season, and doesn't show any real resemblance of a post-game to take advantage of his superior size. He doesn't get to the free throw line very often (2.2 times per-40) as he tends to avoid contact around the rim.
As skilled as he might look in warmups and in occasional flashes he shows in games, Porzingis isn't a terribly consistent shooter at this stage, making just 33% of his 3-point attempts and 58% of his free throws. He can get really hot at times, like he did at least year's Nike International Junior Tournament, where he hit 13/27 (48%) from outside in five games, but he'll need to keep working on this part of his game, particularly in terms of speeding up his release and avoiding dipping the ball substantially before he winds into his shot. He'll almost certainly need to be effective with this part of his game to make up for his lack a back to the basket arsenal.
What's important to keep in mind is just how young Porzingis is. He doesn't turn 19 until August, which makes him the fourth youngest player in our Top-100 rankings. Players his size usually take longer to mature physically and really blossom, so there is a lot to be optimistic about moving forward.
Sevilla's highly respected head coach Aito Garcia Reneses (ex-Spanish national team and Ricky Rubio's coach in Joventut) seems to like him quite a bit, as he gives him plenty of freedom to operate from the perimeter and make creative decisions with the ball, which is not exactly common at this level of European basketball for a player his age. Porzingis has been averaging a steady 15 minutes per game all season long, sometimes even seeing the floor with the game in the balance against Sevilla's toughest opponents, which is invaluable experience.
While it's unknown whether or not Porzingis will elect to keep his name in the draft, he is certainly in an excellent place to continue to develop for a team looking to draft and stash a talented prospect later in the first round. He has only two more years left on his contract with a comfortable buyout for the NBA.
We've taken a more visual look at Porzingis' strengths and weaknesses thanks to game film from the ACB in the following video scouting report, courtesy of Mike Schmitz.