While most of the 60 players who will be selected in Thursday's NBA draft are former college players familiar to American fans, Kristaps Porzingis is largely unknown.
The Latvian big man went to the New York Knicks with the fourth pick in the draft, making him the highest-drafted Latvian player in NBA history. Former Golden State Warriors center Andris Biedrins was the 11th pick in the 2004 draft and played 10 seasons in the NBA. The only other Latvian to play in the NBA was Gundars Vetra, who played 89 minutes in 13 games for the Minnesota Timberwolves during the 1992–93 season.
Porzingis, a 7'1" power forward with a good perimeter jump shot, turns 20 in August. He moved to Spain in 2011 and signed with Spanish club CB Sevilla, earning promotion to the senior team at the age of 17. He averaged 11.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game this season.
Porzingis has been widely considered as a lottery pick since the beginning of the draft process. One GM, speaking to ESPN.com's Chad Ford in April, compared him to Pau Gasol and said he asked his team “Are you sure he's not the No. 1 guy? Are these guys in college really better than him?”
He's also drawn comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki, but some have concerns about his lanky frame. Porzingis is “at least two years and a lot of weightlifting away from offering much of anything—but he has enormous offensive potential,” SI.com's Chris Mannix wrote in his final mock draft.
- Dan Gartland