Before the 2015 NBA Draft, Latvia’s Kristaps Porzingis was a bit of an unknown. Despite playing in the Spanish league for four years and declaring for the 2014 NBA Draft before withdrawing, some fans and the media were apparently hesitant about the 7’3″ power forward. When time came for him to be drafted into the NBA, they made their voices heard. Lets take a trip down memory lane to June 2015.
While always considered a good prospect, after a impressive pre-draft workout a couple of weeks before the draft, the buzz around Porzingis’ grew significantly. Numerous scouts and analysts raved about him. However, many fans and media members seemed to believe that Porzingis was more on the side of international busts like Darko Milicic and Jan Vesely as opposed to stars like Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki.
@vrkumar8 the comparisons I've seen of this Porzingis remind me exactly of the ones of Milicic. It screams international lottery bust.
— Andrew Albert (@AndrewJAlbert01) June 12, 2015
"Everyone is looking for the next Dirk. But Porzingis is at least 2 years away from being a contributing player." – @ChrisMannixSI
— TBL w Jason McIntyre (@TBL_with_Jason) June 14, 2015
Dakich on Porzingis: "I've watched a lot of guys play… man, don't take him."
— 975TheFanatic (@975TheFanatic) June 24, 2015
A relatively unknown international player plus the possibility of playing in one of the biggest markets in the United States created a perfect storm of fear of the unknown for Knicks fans. As the draft became closer, some were becoming very concerned that the Knicks would actually draft Porzingis with the 4th pick.
— Brian Flood (@briansflood) June 25, 2015
I want to make this very clear: If Knicks draft Porzingis, we riot. We burn this mother f**ker to the ground once-and-for-all. End of story.
— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) June 22, 2015
If the Knicks take Porzingis I'm done, dead ass.
— Joe Budden (@JoeBudden) June 24, 2015
Once Draft night rolled around, the Knicks seemed convinced behind the scenes that Porzingis was their man. After the Lakers took D’Angelo Russell with the second pick, Porzingis was open for the Knicks to take him at four, and then all hell broke loose.
porzingis is a bad pick for knicks…#warriors
— Lowell Cohn (@LowellCohn) June 26, 2015
Winslow should've been the pick. Phil Jackson is sans clue. Everything he has done has been wrong. Sad. https://t.co/Bng6j1no1g
— Adam Schein (@AdamSchein) June 26, 2015
I hope Justise Winslow dunks all over the Knicks in MSG and stares down Phil. Dammit Phil
— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) June 26, 2015
The New York Knicks are the new New York Jets of draft infamy. Flashbacks of Kyle Brady.
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) June 26, 2015
Knicks just traded up for Mark Sanchez.
— Patrick Daugherty (@RotoPat) June 26, 2015
Unbelievable. The incompetence is astounding. #Knicks
— KFC (@KFCBarstool) June 26, 2015
This life as a Knicks fan. Fourth pick in three-player draft. Take unknown Euro. Winslow goes 10 to rival. Can't make it up. #howsitgoink
— Nick Kostos (@TheKostos) June 26, 2015
Knicks didn't have a chance at Darko Milicic back in the day, they more than made up for it with Kristaps Porzingis.
— Ben Maller (@benmaller) June 26, 2015
Not an ideal pick since Melo has a 4-5 year window as a top-tier player and Porzingis is a project. This pick could get Phil run out of NYC.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) June 26, 2015
Prediction for Porzingis: 6 NBA seasons, 5.9 PPG, 3.3 RPG
— Corey Seidman (@CoreySeidmanCSN) June 26, 2015
"It's almost like we are the Colorado Rookies of the NBA." -@petedavidson talking about the Knicks and their NBA draft pick."
— The Midday 180 (@Midday180) June 26, 2015
So the Knicks picked …. The big white stiff. Yeah, Phil Jackson was a great choice. Keep enjoying that rebuild.
— Jeff Reinhart LNP (@JeffReinhart77) June 26, 2015
Also, it shouldn’t be shocking but First Take’s Stephen A. Smith went on SportsCenter right after the draft to express his disgust about the Porzingis pick. Because he felt Porzingis was a “project” that would take three to five years to develop, Smith hated the choice. It bothered him so much that he even momentarily stopped his vacation to go on SportsCenter and vent that the Knicks needed players for the short-term.
Stephen A pointed out some players who the Knicks should’ve drafted. He mentioned Willie Cauley-Stein (6th pick with Sacramento), Stanley Johnson (8th pick with Detroit) and Justise Winslow (10th pick with Miami). Comparing all four, Porzingis has more twice as many points per game (15.5 ppg) than the next player and is the only player of the four to start in every game (88 games) he has played in the NBA.
Kristaps Porzingis is only in his second year so there is still a long way to go to determine how great he will be in the NBA. But it seems like Porzingis has had a great start in just his second season. While team executives aren’t always perfect, this is one of those times where Phil Jackson and the Knicks got it right and the team and Porzingis really proved the media and fans wrong.