FIBA Europe / Romans Koksarovs PHOTO BY
FIBA Europe / Martins Silis PHOTO BY
FIBA Europe / Martins Silis
Profile: By Valentin Le Clezio (January 2014). Kristaps Porzingis may be the next great European late-bloomer. While he was pretty much unknown two years ago, the Cajasol player had an excellent performance at the Hospitalet NIJT last December followed by a dominant U18 European championship in his home country of Latvia (11,6 points, 10 rebounds, 4,9 blocks a game). Now put under the microscope of NBA scouts, Prozingis is getting consistent minutes at the ACB level for the first time in his young career (over 13 minutes a game). If performing consistently at this level is still a major challenge for the 18 year-old power-forward, the minutes he has spent on the court so far this season have shown glimpses of his incredible physical and technical talent. He also had two major "coming out parties" games against Caja Laboral (12 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks) and Real Madrid (13 points, 3 rebounds). Body/athleticism: Porzingis is an extremely lanky and long athlete. Standing at 6-11 witha wingspan over 7 feet (no official measurement) and very big hands, he possesses all the physical attributes of a great prospect. Still very skinny (around 220-225 pounds), Porzingis has the chance of having wide shoulders and a good frame. He should be able to fulfill nicely and add the necessary 20 to 30 pounds as he gets older and enters the excellent NBA strength program. His lower-body strength will need to be a point of emphasis, as he tends to struggle contesting or maintaining positions, setting strong picks and defending on the low block. At this stage, Porzingis is pretty much a guard in the body of power-forward. He is a very fluid and coordinated athlete who was gifted incredible mobility and above average athleticism. His lateral mobility in particular makes him a very special athlete at this height. Often underrated during the early stage of his development, his athleticism and leaping abilities have really become a major tool in his arsenal as well.
Shooting: Porzingis’ future at the highest level of basketball lies at the 4 position as an inside-out player with the ability to spread the floor. He already possesses a fundamentally sound shooting stroke and mechanics with great range. He launches the ball from way above his head in a very fluid way, which makes his shot almost unblockable. His release is also remarkably quick for a player that big. He can pull-up from 22 feet pretty much effortlessly (almost 5 attempts per 40 minutes in the ACB) but also likes to create his own mid-range jumper following a couple of dribbles. Cajasol loves to put him in Pick & Pop situations at the top of the key where he is a really dangerous threat thanks to his range and ability to put the ball on the floor. One of his other sweet spots on the floor is the short-corner, 15 feet from the basket where he really feels comfortable. Unsurprisingly, he is also a reliable free-throw shooter (around 70 to 75%) even though he really doesn’t get to the charity stripe a lot. Overall, Porzingis possesses the necessary fundamentals to become a great shooter but still needs a lot of work to get more consistent (3/16 from three at the U18 championship,6/18 in the ACB).
Position / Offense: The key to Porzingis’ future success at the power-forward position on offense will be whether or not he finds a way to balance his outside and inside game. As of today, he still initiates a large majority of his offensive moves from the perimeter. He has above average ball-handling skills for a player his size and is able to put it on the floor and get by his opponent who is often closing out on him, scared by his shooting range. However, he often prefers to settle for the mid-range jumper than to attack the rim and draw a foul. He takes an incredibly low amount of free-throws (13 in 266 minutes at the U18 championship, 4 in 157 minutes in the ACB). For a player his size, with his athleticism, this number is an anomaly. He must have the same aggressive-centric mind-set on offense he has on defense. He needs to attack the rim and not always settle for perimeter shots even though, not being physically strong enough makes him shy away from contact a little bit. In the two games he had good success in the ACB this season, he was able to get confidence early attacking the rim and then, he was getting clear looks from outside. His low-post game is extremely limited. He is mostly used as a 4 by Cajasol alongside Balvin or Hernangomez and rarely gets touches on the low block with his back to the basket. The U18 Latvia team used him a little bit more in this situation but he didn’t show much. Outside of a little right hook shot, his post-moves arsenal is non-existent. Not that a stretch 4 necessarily needs to have a dozen low-post tricks in his pocket but that would be nice seeing him posting-up smaller players. One of his main skills on offense is his ability to sprint up and down the court and his excellent conditioning. Porzingis loves to run the floor hard in transition situation where he can use all his quickness and athletic abilities to outrun his opponent. He is clearly more at ease on a team with a high-paced offense than on a slow, half-court minded team.Porzingis has also improved his off the ball game since we last saw him this summer, creating easy opportunities on cuts and backdoors to the rim. He has become more assertive in that domain over the last couple of months. Sevilla, knowing that Porzingis is usually the more mobile player in his matchup, even runs from time to time a play where a screen is set near the baseline with Porzingis diving from the perimeter towards the rim in order to take advantage of his quickness.Finally, Porzingis will need to develop his playmaking ability to be able to create for others. With a usage rate of almost 20% at Cajasol this season, he only had 1 assist in 157 minutes. This problem is not new as he already showed some difficulties passing out double-teams and creating for his teammates at the U18 championship (4 assists in 266 minutes).
Defense/Rebounding: As much as offensive potential Porzingis has, his defensive prowess is the part of his game making scouts salivating. His length, mobility, athleticism and terrific motor make him a special player on that end of the floor. With Porzingis on the floor, Cajasol’s defensive efficiency rating is much, much improved, going from 104,7 to 99,8 (first 12 ACB games). He shows an incredible ability as a weak side defender. He is able to cover a lot of ground in a couple of steps to use his length and timing in order to block or bother shots at the rim (5 blocks a game or 1 block every 6 minutes at the U18 championship, 2,3 blocks per 40 minutes in the ACB). He is also always willing to sacrifice his body in order to force a charge. His lateral mobility also makes him a special Pick and Roll defender, which has become a key area to any elite defender game at the NBA level. He is able to hedge and then recover extremely quickly, using his long arms to shut angle of passes. He also has the athleticism to switch onto the smaller guard, stay with him and force him into a contested jumper. His length and aggressiveness could make him the pillar of a very good zone defender as he is able to rotate and disrupt passing lanes with efficiency (2,5 steals per 40 minutes in the ACB).Rebounding-wise, Porzingis makes a steady-effort boxing-out but struggles physically against stronger players at the senior level (rebounding rate ridiculously low at 10%). He didn’t struggle in that area at the U18 level though (10 rebounds in 29 minutes a game).He has a special knack to get offensive boards even when he doesn’t have the preferential position thanks to his length and timing. The fundamentals, the effort and the tools are in place to make him a good rebounder. He now needs to add strength in order to maximize that potential.
Miscellaneous: Despite already being considered a star in his home country of Latvia, Prozingis has kept his feet on the ground and his head on his shoulders. He is a very good teammate and student of the game, always willing to listen to more experienced players or coaches. He also possesses a good work ethic and is conscious of the long road ahead of him.Furthermore, he already has had to leave his native country and face a new culture and language in Spain back in 2011. He has shown great adaptation capabilities and already speaks Spanish and English fluently, which could prove being a massive advantage in case of an early departure for the United States.
Overall: Porzingis possesses all the tools to become an NBA lottery pick in the next couple of years. He is without NBA doubt one of the two or three most exciting Draft eligible European prospects today. His physical tools, athleticism, shooting touch and willingness to work hard make him an incredibly intriguing player. While he only participated to his first international competition last summer, he seems to have already conquered many NBA scouts and observers. One of them recently told us: "Who wouldn’t be excited by Porzingis?". Nevertheless, as any player with a ton of upside, Porzingis still has ways to go. He relies way too much on his outside game, doesn’t get to the rim nor to the free-throw line enough yet. He also needs to add at least 15 to 20 pounds to become a real factor defensively and rebounding the ball as a power-forward at the NBA level. Whether he decides to wait one more season to put his name in the Draft (and a lock to be a lottery pick in 2015?) or chooses to make the big jump this year (first round promise?) in a much stronger Draft is still a wide open question.