Having predictably struggled to start his Dallas Mavericks career, Kristaps Porzingis will have every opportunity to dominate in the coming days.
The Dallas Mavericks have gotten off to an unexpectedly hot start to the 2019-20 season with the third-best record in the West at 17-8. But for those who had any belief this was possible, they couldn’t have pictured it looking like this.
Luka Doncic‘s rapid ascension skyrocketed toward superstardom with historic numbers placing him in the early MVP conversation. At the other end of the spectrum, however, is Kristaps Porzingis and the struggles he’s been through in this new chapter of his career.
His 16.8 points are a bit low and the 8.9 rebounds per game are actually a career-high, but the glaring issue with Porzingis is the early failure to capitalize playing alongside such a special shot creator.
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It’s not as if The Unicorn is getting bad looks; 30.7 percent of his total shots are considered open –where the nearest defender is within four to six feet — yet he’s converting them at a measly 33.0 percent clip. Playing with Luka was supposed to make the game easier for KP, who is shooting just 39.7 percent from the field and 32.6 from downtown.
And now, Doncic will miss at least the next two weeks after spraining his ankle on Saturday night. Porzingis alone might not be able to keep Dallas afloat in the standings, but given his early inconsistencies, he could use this stretch to springboard an individual resurgence.
Everything ran through Porzingis in Madison Square Garden. In his final season with the New York Knicks, KP’s usage rate was at 31.0 percent — a top-five mark if he qualified — allowing him to produce numbers that warranted his first All-Star appearance.
So far this season that number is 25.5 percent with a noticeable dip in 2-point attempts as well — 4.7 a game.
Players of every caliber can say all the right things about their willingness to sacrifice, but that doesn’t make it any easier to adjust to without some growing pains along the way. It also doesn’t help that KP was absent for 20 months rehabbing a brutal leg injury and is attempting to rediscover his rhythm.
With Doncic sidelined, Dallas’ offense will almost certainly run through Porzingis, which could be exactly what he needs to integrate into Rick Carlisle‘s offense and shake off whatever rust he has to speed closer to his former self.
Porzingis wasn’t dubbed the Unicorn by accident. Even in the age of hybrid 7-footers, he’s a unique blend of size and grace, fluidity and aggression. We’ve seen how he can affect the game at either end and he was viewed as the perfect big man complement to Doncic’s ball-handling wizardry.
Like Gordon Hayward, perhaps the basketball masses expected too much too soon for a player who had been gone too long, one with little to no experience on his new team.
If there were ever a time for Porzingis to let loose, it would be when the absence of Dallas’ franchise player leaves a hole in the offense that needs to be occupied, thereby affording him the role that helped him rise to stardom in New York.
Force-feeding their other overseas star might cost the Mavs a few spots in the standings in the present, but Porzingis’ repaired confidence could have them thriving when it comes time to make a final playoff push in March and April.