The New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers were two teams desperately hoping to get it right in the 2015 NBA Draft. New York and Los Angeles both ended up making a questionable move at the time with the Lakers passing on Jahlil Okafor for D’Angelo Russell and the Knicks taking the gamble on Kristaps Porzingis.
The move appears to have paid off for Phil Jackson and company with Porzingis showing some star potential in his first season. Even Kobe Bryant of the Lakers is convinced the Knicks made a brilliant move with the rookie as he told Mason and Ireland on ESPN710 on Wednesday, via Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters:
Kobe Bryant was asked about Phil Jackson (on @ESPNLosAngeles) first says:
"First of all, (Kristaps) Porzingis pick was a brilliant pick."
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) April 6, 2016
In 72 games for the Knicks so far, Porzingis is averaging 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game. Even at 7’3″ Porzingis has proven to be an efficient shooter from the floor. The 20-year-old is shooting 42.1 percent from the floor, 33.3 percent from beyond the arc and 83.8 from the free-throw line this season.
Unfortunately for New York, the Knicks have continued to struggle this season despite the emergence of the rookie forward. Porzingis and company have already been eliminated from playoff contention in the Eastern Conference and will look for more ways to right the ship in the offseason.
Although Porzingis has been much better than expected in his first NBA season, the Latvian product will likely finish behind Karl-Anthony Towns for NBA Rookie of the Year. Russell may also receive some votes for the honor as this season’s best rookie, but may have to settle for NBA All-Rookie First Team honors along with Porzingis like Jordan Clarkson did last year.