The last few seasons have been a rollercoaster for former All-Star Kristaps Porzingis. In 2017, he was the New York Knicks franchise player and led the team in scoring, rebounding, and blocks before he tore his ACL midway through the season. He then missed the next year and a half of basketball and was traded during that time, before finally suiting up for the Dallas Mavericks.
There, he failed to live up to the lofty expectations of being the team’s second option behind superstar Luka Doncic and struggled to stay healthy. That led to him being traded to the Washington Wizards at the trade deadline, essentially for role players and to free up cap space. The Mavericks didn’t lose a beat without Porzingis, likely adding insult to injury.
The Washington Wizards may have brought low on Kristaps Porzingis
Fortunately, he too seemed better off post-trade. He averaged a terrific 22.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.5 blocks in fewer than 30 minutes per game. Better still, he regained his shooting form, drilling 36.7% from three.
Those 17 games could be seen as an outlier, but perhaps it isn’t, and the Washington Wizards certainly hope that the old Porzingis is back. The fact that he’ll be healthy to start this season, something that can’t be taken for granted when talking about Porzingis, leads to optimism that he’ll regain his All-Star form.
That would be huge for the Wizards, who have been in desperate need of a second star to pair with Bradley Beal but have been stuck. They aren’t bad enough to land a top-five pick and not good enough to make the playoffs, which leads them to essentially play out the string and hope that one of their recent late-lottery picks hits and turns into a star or at least a very good player.
Moreover, it will take time for them to figure out if players like Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura, Johnny Davis, or even Corey Kispert will grow into those roles. Meanwhile, the team has a star in Porzingis, or at least he was one before injuries took their toll. Despite that, he’s barely 27, two years younger than Beal, and there’s still time for him to reclaim that “Unicorn” nickname that was given to him due to his unique combination of size and skill.
So far in the preseason, he’s appeared more mobile than he’s looked at times in the last few years, further signs that he’s healthy. Washington will want to keep him that way and continuing to play him for around 28 minutes per game will help. At this point in his career, he can’t be relied upon to average 33-35 minutes and appear in 70 games.
Still, if those 17 games are an accurate indicator, he could be highly productive in relatively limited minutes, over say 60 games, which would be good enough to help the Washington Wizards make the play-in tournament or the playoffs outright.
Overall, Porzingis is talented enough to have a big impact on Washington this season. Moreover, assuming he can stay healthy, Porzingis will regain his unicorn status with the Washington Wizards.