What is Kristaps Porzingis’ Role?

With Summer League in the rearview mirror and training camp fast approaching, it has yet to be seen what role coach Derek Fisher will bestow upon Kristaps Porzingis.

Fisher has made no indication as to whether or not he will bring Porzingis off the bench or thrust him into the starting lineup. With the question still up in the air, lets take a look at the reasons that Porzingis should start, and why he should come off the bench.


(NY Post Photo/Bizuayehu Tesfaye)
(NY Post Photo/Bizuayehu Tesfaye)

Not many rookies are ready to be in the starting lineup so early into their careers. Most rookies come off the bench until they’ve shown they can play with the starters, or the ones that do start usually struggle early on with the pressure that comes with starting.

Starting Porzingis will only add more unnecessary pressure to what is sure to be a wild season for the Latvian big man.

As the number four overall pick in last June’s draft, Porzingis already has enough pressure to deal with. Tack on the bright lights of Madison Square Garden and trying not to have his name added to the list of international flame outs, Porzingis has a lot of expectations to live up to.

Inserting Porzingis into the starting lineup will only give fans the assumption that he is ready to contribute right away, which he isn’t.  Everybody knows that it will take Porzingis a couple of years to really make a worthy enough impact to crack the starting lineup, so why thrust him into the starting lineup when he doesn’t have much to offer right now?

On top of that, the Knicks franchise centerpiece, Carmelo Anthony, does his best work at the power forward position. Anthony’s PER rises from 21.7 to 25.8 when he shifts to the power forward position.

Starting a front court of Anthony, Porzingis, and Robin Lopez could lead to the type of mess that plagued the Knicks when they started a front court of Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler.

On the other hand, starting Porzingis could also be just the thing the Knicks need to get back into the playoff race.

While being in the starting lineup has added pressure to it, Porzingis has handled pressure nicely since he’s been a part of the Knicks. He doesn’t seem to be phased by the fans or Madison Square Garden, so being in the starting lineup shouldn’t phase the big man.

Being in the starting lineup could also speed up Porzingis’s development. Instead of going up against mid-level talent coming off the bench, Porzingis would go up against some of the best power forwards in the game, shortening the learning curve the big man is almost guaranteed to experience.


Getty Images
Getty Images

Bringing Porzingis off the bench could also prove to be the best move for Derek Fisher and the Knicks.

With the Knicks not looking like championship contenders in the near future, there shouldn’t be any real reason to rush a player who everyone knows will take a few years to develop into a star. The best thing the Knicks can do for Porzingis is to slowly bring him along off the bench until he has proven he can contribute in the starting lineup.

While the Knicks ranked eighth in bench scoring last season, many players from that bench squad are no longer with the Knicks, making the team in need of some offense off the pine. Porzingis could be someone who provides a spark off the bench when called upon.

Coming off the bench also means that Porzingis will be going up against the opposing teams bench. As a rookie, this  will give him the opportunity to get a feel for the NBA and develop some consistency without getting dominated night in night out by opposing power forwards.

With all the positives listed above, there would be some negatives if Porzingis comes off the bench.

Bringing Porzingis off the bench might not maximize his potential. While starting him, Anthony, and Lopez may create a logjam in the front court, Porzingis should still see some playing time with the starting lineup. This early in his career, Porzingis should be looking to feed off of other players, something coming off the bench just doesn’t offer. Bringing Porzingis off the bench would force him to create shots for himself, something he isn’t ready for this early in his career.  As he gets accustomed to the NBA and puts on some muscle, then he can be looked at as a go to scorer.

Whether or not Porzingis should be in the starting lineup is up to Derek Fisher. He must realize that Porzingis isn’t ready to contribute right away, and that the key to accelerating his development could also lead to its downfall.


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