The New York Knicks have selected forward Kristaps Porzingis of Latvia with No. 4 pick in 2015 NBA draft.
Porzingis initially declared for the 2014 NBA draft before removing his name from consideration as the draft neared. He declared for this year's draft on April 16, immediately returning to the lottery pick conversation.
The 19-year-old averaged 10.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1 block for Baloncesto Sevilla of Spain's Liga ACB. An aura of mystique surrounded the international prospect, but the hype was backed up in a recent Las Vegas workout that impressed scouts.
"First of all, I think a lot of guys are worried that Europeans might not have the heart and the passion about the game—but that’s the first thing that I have," Porzingis told SI on June 8. "I love the game, I’m a student of the game, it’s important if you want to have a long, successful career in the NBA. As far as my skills, I’m a really tall guy who can shoot, who can stretch the floor, who can drive, who has a face-up post game. I would say my shot is one of my best skills."
Mannix's Analysis: First, Kristaps Porzingis can play. He’s an incredibly skilled, perimeter-oriented big man who can stretch the floor and make the mid-range jump shot. He’s at least two years away from doing anything at an NBA level, but if developed right he could be a franchise player. But there are legitimate concerns in Porzingis’s camp about how he will handle the pressure of New York, and he won’t help a team desperately trying to maximize the last few years of Carmelo Anthony’s contract. If the Knicks are patient, they could have a star. If not, they could ruin a promising prospect.
Strengths: Porzingis is a true 7-footer with the athleticism of a much smaller player. Having played professionally in Europe, his skills are more developed than many American big men. His shot is a thing of beauty, with a high release point and a quick trigger. He is more the mold of a stretch-four in a center’s body, but he makes up for his inability to back down opponents with an excellent shot over either shoulder. He hustles in transition and can often exploit slower big men tasked with guarding him. His best fit would be with a fast-paced team that likes to run the floor. He isn’t an elite jumper, but he finishes at the rim whenever he can. At 19, his upside is tough to calculate, particularly if he can maintain speed while adding weight to his frame. With a slightly more developed low-post game, he could become a matchup nightmare.
Weaknesses: Unlike Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns or even Willie Cauley-Stein, Porzingis is not an NBA-ready big man. But with the right amount of time and development, he could be a matchup problem as a stretch four. Porzingis will likely get pushed around by NBA centers until he can add some weight to his frame. What position he will play, and what position he will defend, could become problems early on for the team that drafts him. On offense, he has made up for his lack of post moves by becoming an excellent jump shooter, but he has no answers on defense when caught in the low post with players his own height. He is not an excellent rebounder and gets boxed out far too often for a player of his size.