Kristaps Porzingis has scorched Knicks records on his way to his first Eastern Conference Player of the Week award in a stunning start to the season.
Kristaps Porzingis has added several new moves to his arsenal and his added strength has really changed how he takes on the game. To start the season, Porzingis is averaging 30.2 points, 7.8 rebounds 1.0 assists and 2.2 blocks with shooting splits of 50/36/82. Most importantly, he's led a fairly underwhelming roster to a record above .500.
So what exactly is Porzingis doing differently this season? Well, firstly he's becoming much more aggressive in the post. His footwork is deft, and he's swinging his elbows quickly when he's pivoting to face up to create plenty of space. He has no issue shooting over the top of players. He's too tall for most of the hybrid power forwards that are put up against him, so he's drawing plenty of contact, and getting to the line at a terrific rate.
Last season, he averaged 3.8 free throw attempts per game. This season it's all the way up to 7.7. He's ranked eighth in the league for that, just narrowly trailing Blake Griffin and James Harden. Porzingis is second in the league in points per game, first in field goal attempts per game and fourth in blocks per game. He's going all out.
To preface these next few stats, it's important to understand a couple of things. Porzingis hasn't really been that healthy. He played while sick last week against Houston and he only scored 19 points. He was expected to miss the next game against the Suns, but he stuck it out. He also had a sore left ankle and had to sit out a training session, but he still managed to play against the Pacers.
So how historic has Porzingis' rise been so far? Well in nine games, he's passed the 30-point mark seven times. With his career high 40 points against the Pacers, Porzingis overtook Bernard King in the most points by a Knick in the first nine games of the season.
Obviously, most of the credit should go to Porzingis for his persistence in the weight room. He's making a lot of tough shots and he's finding it easier to finish with contact.
However, coach Jeff Hornacek has broken the offense down and really made it easy for Porzingis to get the ball where he wants it. One of the most simple sets the Knicks run involves Tim Hardaway coming over from the left corner to the right elbow to give Porzingis a screen. With both players being such offensive threats, that opens up plenty of space for Porzingis to either pop out to behind the arc to take a three, or some space down on the block or in the mid-post area. Hornacek also runs a variant where Porzingis sets the screen for Hardaway. It's a simple action, but it's clearly working.
Above is a little variation of the play. It's allowing Porzingis plenty of room to cut to the rim, where he's got a nice chemistry building with Enes Kanter who is adept at this short pass out of the post.
It's a long season (and teams will figure out the Knicks soon enough), but it's sure exciting to watch Porzingis do his thing like this.