Porzingis Embracing Leadership Role with Knicks

Since Carmelo Anthony's departure, Kristaps Porzingis has emerged as one of the top players in the NBA. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

With the departure of Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis is having his breakout season, approaching superstar level. Porzingis is fourth in the NBA in scoring and he leads the league in blocks per game. Last season Porzingis only averaged 18.1 points per game, for a point of reference.

Although the Knicks have had a slightly worse start than they did last season with Carmelo Anthony as their leader, Anthony’s new team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, have gotten off to a slow start as well. In fact, the Knicks have a better record than the Thunder, with 11 wins compared to the Thunder’s eight.

I am not saying Anthony is the reason for the Thunder having a bad start to the season, but he is having a career low season in scoring. Anthony is also 33-years-old, and has passed the prime of his career. This may also be due to Anthony having two superstar teammates in Russell Westbrook and Paul George.

With Anthony approaching the back end of his career, his ball-demanding playstyle, and suspect defense would not have been a good thing for the Knicks in the future. I have to say the Knicks won the trade they made with the Thunder in the offseason, when they traded Anthony for Enes Kanter, sharpshooter Doug McDermott and a 2018 second round draft pick that belongs to the Chicago Bulls.

Carmelo Anthony’s departure has allowed Porzingis to take the lead role on the Knicks, with the offense running through him.  Porzingis now plays on a more passionate level and demands control on the court. In the previous two seasons, we saw Porzingis be a lot more passive on offense, taking the backseat to Anthony.

Porzingis’ aggressive mentality, always looking to score has brought some optimism to Knicks fans. It allows Knick fans to be optimistic in feeling better days are ahead for the organization. Porzingis is only 22-years-old. He hasn’t even reached his prime yet, so Knicks fans can only imagine how good he will be when he fully blossoms.

Last season, in their first 20 games played, the Knicks went 11-9. This season the Knicks have a slightly worse record with 11-10, dropping the last three games before defeating the Miami Heat 115-86 on Wednesday, Nov. 29. But Knicks fans shouldn’t be so worried about the losing streak because this season, they have a different team with the key offseason additions of Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Enes Kanter.

Hardaway, Jr. is the Knicks’ second leading scorer and Enes Kanter is the team’s third leading scorer and he leads the team in rebounds per game.

Both Hardaway, Jr and Kanter are 25-years-old and under contract with the Knicks through the 2018-19 and the 2020-21 seasons, respectively. As the season progresses, the new revamped Knicks are expected to continue to build chemistry and will start to tally up more wins.

The Knicks also have 19-year-old point guard, Frank Ntilikina, who hasn’t had a great start to his rookie season, but has had times during games where we have seen flashes of his talent. Ntilikina has shown glimpses of a point guard who possesses a composed style of play where he can run the offense well.

Knicks fans should be hopeful because Ntilikina has a lot of talent, and he will only get better. Not all rookies start their first season playing great basketball. Some rookies take a few years to become great.

The Knicks’ next five games are going to be against the Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks. Only the Pacers have more wins than the Knicks, but the Knicks defeated them earlier in the season with a 108-101 win at home.

The Bulls and the Hawks have the worst two records in the NBA, and the Magic and Grizzlies are both under .500, so the Knicks should have no problem with being able to win most of the next few games they have.