When it comes to Dallas Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis, a lot of the talk over the summer revolved around the lack of production he had in the playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers in June. In a series where the Mavs had a 2-0 lead and ultimately ended up playing in a decisive Game 7, one has to wonder if the Clippers would've even made it that far had Porzingis averaged more than 13 points and five rebounds per game while shooting under 30 percent from deep.
Porzingis had his struggles during the regular season as well, particularly on defense, but he was much better than what we saw against the Clippers, as he averaged 20.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game while shooting a career-high 47.6 percent from the field and 37.6 percent from deep (his effective field goal percentage of 54.7 was also a career-high by far).
And in the 'bubble' playoffs the season before last, Porzingis made 9-of-17 threes in just a little over two games before having to sit out with a meniscus injury.
Through the entire seven-game series this past postseason, Porzingis shot 8-of-27 from deep.
So what exactly happened?
It's easy to get caught up in all of the negative narratives that follow such a disappointing performance from a guy who still has three years of max money left on his current contract, but the fact is that Porzingis' postseason struggles with the Mavs weren't all his fault.
Should he have been more aggressive? Absolutely. But former head coach Rick Carlisle shares some blame for that as well, as he pretty much told Porzingis to stand in the corner and look pretty as a decoy for spacing reasons.
Porzingis is not a perfect basketball player by any means, but if you're Carlisle, you can't go a full seven-game series without trying to utilize your $30 million man more than he did.
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Another fact that many have mocked throughout this offseason when using it as a sign of optimism for Porzingis is that he just went through his first fully healthy offseason in his career. On one hand, that tells you just how injury-prone Porzingis has been in his young career, but on the other, there's something to be said about him finally not having to play catch-up all the time.
Every offseason, Porzingis has had to rehab something instead of being able to fully focus on his body and game the entire time.
All of this is not said to exonerate Porzingis for the many times he's taken bad fadeaway jumpers against smaller players in the post or let his defender drive past him for an easy layup, but rather to show that it isn't as bad as what many people have made it out to be when you look at all the contributing factors. And as heated as Mavs fans were at ex-GM Donnie Nelson at exit interviews last season when he essentially said Luka Doncic needed to share the ball more, there is a slight bit of significance to that, at least when it comes to Porzingis specifically.
Overall, Doncic's passing is incredible in both quality and quantity. He was top-five in assists last season and is the farthest thing from a selfish player, as some try to insinuate. That said, even Doncic himself has admitted that he needs to do a better job of trying to get Porzingis involved, which, again, was already going to be a tough ask in the postseason given how Carlisle chose to use KP.
Porzingis, when completely healthy, can be a really nice wingman for Doncic, but even with KP coming into this season with no injury issues, nothing is guaranteed given his history.
Whether Dallas eventually decides to trade Porzingis or not, now probably isn't the right time.
Patience, at least for the first month or so of this season, could pay off for the Mavs in one way or another. If Porzingis looks like the guy we saw before his meniscus injury, the sky is the limit for this Mavs' team with that version of KP and Doncic leading the way. And on the other hand, even if Dallas decides to eventually move on, Porzingis playing well enough to make people forget about last year's postseason will only help his trade value.
So patience - yes, more patience - is a Mavs virtue when it comes to Kristaps Porzingis.
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