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Big| 7’1 | 220 | Sevilla
Projected: Top 5
Best Case: Dirk Nowitzki
Most Likely: Andrea Bargnani
Worst Case: Nikoloz Tskitishvili
I can’t really get a handle on Katniss Bazinga. He has the stroke and shot-making ability at 7’1 to make you think he could be the closest we get to the next Dirk (in a Kobe-Jordan kind of way), but he lacks the ball-handling, passing and broad frame that allowed Dirk to become more than a shooter. He shares some similarities with Bargnani, both being sweet shooting bigs with defensive limitations, and Tskitishvili, the guy no one wants to be compared to. Porzingis should have a leg up over these two though, coming into the NBA from the ACB rather than the Italian league.
So how did he play against the elite competition on offer in Spain? Pretty darn well – over 50 games he averaged 11 points, 5 boards, 1 steal, 1 block on 50/36/75 shooting splits. Playing over 20 minutes in the ACB as a 19 year old is an achievement in itself but being as productive as he was offensively (21 PER, 58 TS%, 110 ORtg) will get NBA teams to sit up and take notice. The basis for his offense at present is spot up shooting, pick and roll (pop) play and put-backs. This is a pretty good formula for efficiency and that should carry over to his NBA play. Add in some flashes of real shot-making talent – fadeaways, intricate finishes in the lane, shooting off screens – and the talk about him being a top prospect in this draft starts to make some sense.
There will need to be patience on the part of the franchise who drafts Porzingis however. He has a confluence of factors that will make defense an issue early in his career – a lack of bulk, strength, fundamentals and instincts should leave him targeted by opposing coaches just like we saw with Meyers his first couple of seasons. Porzingis is mobile and quick enough to be a potentially impressive pick and roll defender once he catches up to the speed of the NBA game and his shot-blocking numbers in the ACB were solid, so there is more potential for him on that end than someone like slow-footed, disinterested Andrea Bargnani. Projecting him as a passer is tough too, as he hasn’t shown much in this regard during his ACB career. Some court vision to add to his shooting and athleticism would really make Porzingis an intriguing offensive package, but on the evidence thus far passing is more likely to be a weakness than a strength. Here again, patience and skill development will be key.
Even after plenty of reading, watching, listening and analysing, I don’t really know what to make of Porzingis. He’s an impressive talent no doubt and his track record of strong play against elite competition should give NBA execs some comfort that the chances of a Tskitishvili repeat are low. On the other hand, it’s hard to see Porzingis starring in the NBA without adding bulk, but if this saps much of his quickness across the floor or off his feet then we aren’t looking at such an interesting proposition. I see enough ability in him to think he’ll end up a more useful player than Bargnani but I wouldn’t feel comfortable betting on him being much more than that. It feels like too much has to go right – finding a good situation without pressure to perform right away, adding bulk, picking up the pace of the game, figuring out how to finish against NBA athletes and learning to play fundamental defense. These issues aren’t unique to Porzingis but he’s the only prospect at the top of this draft needing to address all of them.