NBA Position: Stretch Four
- Elite Size and Length for an NBA Stretch Four
- Plus Athlete, Above the Rim Finisher (Utilizing Length over Power) With Good Hands
- Mobile, Agile Big Man, Fluid Runner: Can Beat Less Mobile Bigs Down the Court on Rim-Runs
- Quick, High Release With Good Mechanics on Shot With Three-Point Range
- Mostly a Catch and Shoot Perimeter Player, Can Shoot Coming Off Screens and Moves Well on the Perimeter Locating Open Space to Shoot
- Ability to Square Up on the Move to Get His Shot Up
- Good Body Control in Start and Stop Situations, Aiding His Mid-Range Pull-Up and Fade-away Game
- Has Enough Off the Bounce to Attack Closeouts with a Solid First Step, Mostly Goes Right to Elevate and Finish
- Off-Ball Game: Cutting and Slashing to the Rim
- Ability to Operate in Pick and Roll, Specifically Pick and Pop
- Attacks the Glass on Putbacks
- Solid Instincts as a Backline Defender Rotating to Challenge Shots
- Mobility and Length Allows Him to Recover Around the Paint
- Can Block/Alter Shots with Long Arms: Projects as a Respectable Rim Protector
- Shows Good Recovery Ability on the Perimeter in Showing Hard to Contain the Ball-Handler and Getting Back to His Man
- Lateral Agility in Pick and Roll: Good Feet to Wall Off Penetration of Quicker Perimeter Players
Perhaps the most polarizing player in the ’15 draft class, Porzingis has a myriad of tantalizing qualities. At 7’0 with what appears to be endlessly long arms (though wingspan is unconfirmed), he has elite size and length for an NBA stretch 4. Though not a top-shelf athlete, he definitely has plus athleticism for his size and is an above the rim finisher, using more length than power, possessing good hands to catch lobs and passes in traffic. His slender build makes Porzingis a mobile minx running the floor, as he is a fluid and agile mover fully capable of beating less mobile bigs down the floor on rim-runs in transition.
Porzingis’ most translatable NBA skill is his jump shot. Armed with a mechanically sound high and quick release with range out beyond the three-point line, Porzingis with his size and length should be able to get his shot off undisturbed on the NBA level. While mostly a catch and shoot threat, Porzingis shows rare ability for a player of his size to square up to the basket on the move and hit shots. He has a guard’s awareness on finding open space on the perimeter to spot-up, and is adept at shooting coming off screens. On tape he possesses good start and stop ability with the ball that aids his midrange pull-up and fadeaway game in clearing the requisite space to get his shot off.
While Porzingis doesn’t have an advanced handle (as most 7 footers don’t) he has enough off the bounce to attack closeouts and use his solid first step to get by the first wave of the defense for either a pull-up jumper or attacking the rim. With the threat of his shot, quick release and his ability to attack closeouts, Porzingis possesses the tools to be a functional stretch 4 in the league if he develops as a passer. He has also shown a comfortability operating in pick and roll, particularly as a pick and pop threat darting out quickly to the three point line utilizing his quick release, which is how he’s expected to be used on the next level.
Porzingis has developed his off-ball awareness, utilizing cuts and slashing more frequently to finish lobs at the rim. There is a lot of tape on Porzingis diving hard to the rim for finishes or crashing down weakside for the same, albeit usually uncontested at the rim. While not a physical player, Porzingis gets a lot of his offense on crashing the glass and converting put-backs with the ability to utilize his length to high-point rebounds and finish.
Defensively, Porzingis completes the other half of the analytics crush (along with floor spacing) with his ability to protect the rim. He shows good awareness and timing as a backline defender rotating to penetrating players at the rim to alter shots. The combination of his mobility and instincts allows him to recover quickly to the paint either across the key if in 2-9 or anywhere in the paint to challenge shots with his length. While not a dynamic shot blocker, Porzingis projects to be a positive defending the basket, and could be a rare and excellent secondary rim protector.
On the perimeter, Porzingis has quick feet, and combined with his straight-line mobility enables him to show on pick and roll and recover to his man to contest shots with his length. Porzingis projects as a capable pick and roll defender in the league with his solid lateral quicks, enabling him to wall off some quicker perimeter players on dribble penetration.
- Slender Frame, Rail Thin: Toughness Issues
- Both Upper-Body and Lower-Body Strength
- Leveraging Defensive Rebounding, Boxing Out, Post Ups
- Defensive Versatility: Not Strong Enough to Defend Physical Big Men, Not Nimble Enough to Track Wings on the Perimeter
- Feel For the Game/Passing Instincts
- Limited Post Game/Carving Out Space in the Post
- Finishing Through Contact At the Rim
- Getting to the Foul Line
Most, but certainly not all, of the criticism surrounding Porzingis centers around his frame. I’ve never seen him in person, but on screen he looks like all limbs with a rail thin core. They list him at 220, which seems a tad overzealous. Simply put, Porzingis will need to add both lower body strength and upper body strength, with emphasis on the former, to survive in the league. He’s currently not strong, physical or tough enough to leverage position against NBA athletes in the post or boxing out.
Most importantly, if Porzingis doesn’t get stronger it diminishes his value as a stretch 4. While he’ll still be able to shoot over smaller players, if he doesn’t have the requisite strength to post smaller players, opposing teams will just stick a more mobile wing on him like teams do with Ryan Anderson and the trade-off of tracking the wing on the other end will result in a net negatives for Porzingis’ team. Essentially, even Porzingis’ positive attributes will not shine through if he doesn’t put on weight.
Due to his current frame, even with broad shoulders that should help facilitate adding upper body strength, Porzingis doesn’t seem likely to ever have the ability to defend physical imposing fives or rebound effectively, which limits his defensive versatility as he similarly doesn’t have the foot-speed to track most wings (though he can defend the Matt Barnes’ of the world). He looks to be a player only capable of defending a very specific type of player, and in a league where versatility reigns that curbs his value.
My main offensive concern with Porzingis is his feel for the game and passing instincts. His assist rate is putrid, and while he has demonstrated the ability to locate open teammates from a standstill in obvious transition settings, reading defenses on the fly in a high-stakes 4 on 3 game is a completely different story. What makes a player like Draymond Green effective (though admittedly not so much in the Finals) is his playmaking ability from the four spot in being able to attack closeouts and diagnose the defense on the move to locate cutters or shooters. I haven’t seen that from Porzingis’ highlights, and his morbid assist rate does not instill much confidence there.
There are other underdeveloped components of Porzingis’ offensive game that are mostly tied to his lack of strength. He does not have the base to carve out space in the post in the league. Most NBA athletes will be able to push Porzingis out of the post entirely. He also has a limited post-game and raw footwork. As he never projects to be more than a selective post player when matchups dictates, he doesn’t need a plethora of moves down there, especially with his ability to shoot over smaller players. He definitely needs a few counters however to his right hand hook to keep defenders honest. Porzingis also struggles to finish through contact when he actually goes to the rim. Most of his highlight finishes are uncontested, and while he does try to finish emphatically over players at times, his frame usually prevents this from occurring. He seems to lack aggressiveness at times in choosing to settle for jumpers, which impacts his ability to draw fouls and by extension of course his free throw rate.
Offense: Up-tempo System, Preferably in 4 Out, 1 In System Utilized in Pick and Pop
Porzingis will be best utilized in a high pace system that allows him to beat less mobile bigs down the floor on rim runs in transition that will offset his lack of half court playmaking as his passing awareness develops (if it indeed does). In the half court, Porzingis is most comfortable playing on the perimeter either as a spot-up shooter or utilized in pick and roll as a pick and pop shooter. He projects to fit best as a stretch 4 in a 4 out, 1 in half court setting.
Defense: Scheme Versatile, Capable of Showing, Needs to be Paired with a Physical Center
Due to his mobility and foot speed, Porzingis can show in pick and roll coverage and has the ability to string some lead guards out and recover to his man. He can also switch entirely against guards or wings in the slower mold. In essence, he’s not someone who has to drop back in pick and roll coverage due to mobility concerns. That being said, Porzingis has to be paired with a more physical center who can handle opposing teams’ primary post up options, as he currently does not have the strength to defend that breed of player.
Team Fit: Detroit Pistons
The Pistons offer an intriguing scheme fit for Porzingis that in this case aligns with his projected draft range. Van Gundy prefers the 4 out 1 in system he ran in Orlando, and has that key center cog in Drummond to serve as the sole traditional big in that setting. Detroit also has a ball-dominant guard in Reggie Jackson (should he be re-signed as expected), as well as Jennings still under contract, to create on the perimeter. A hypothetical offense centered around the Jackson/Drumond P&R where Drummond dives hard to the rim and sucks in the defense for shooters makes sense, and Porzingis could fit well with that young core long-term as a stretch 4. The Pistons recently trading for Ilysova actually helps Porzingis in that he wont be immediately thrust into the starting lineup and can he can be brought slowly along. Van Gundy is one of the few personnel execs who has the long-term stability to bring on a project like Porzingis, and if guys like Winslow or Hezonja are off the board, taking a flier on the 7 foot stretch 4 makes sense here from a team building and scheme standpoint.
Player Comparison: More Explosive and Superior Defensive Version of Andrea Bargnani
Let’s get one thing out of the way: everyone wants the next international Dirk, and Porzingis is not that. Go back and watch Dirk’s Nike Hoop Summit highlights in ’98 on youtube. You can’t even compare the two players. Bargnani has perhaps the worst stigma attached to him in the league, and every association with him is automatically met with unequivocal bust chants, and deservedly so. But he went #1 overall for the same reasons that Porzingis is being touted for: rare skill level for a 7 footer and shooting mechanics. He’s also being knocked for similar features: frame, lack of rebounding, basketball IQ, NBA position, and good but not great athleticism. I think Porzingis is more explosive than Bargnani as a finisher and has better feet moving laterally defensively. Bur if you look at their physical profiles and line up their numbers side by side, they’re eerily similar.
Porzingis appears to have the work ethic to develop his game, and will likely not be under the intense pressure and microscope Bargnani was as the #1 pick, which is quietly a considerable factor here. But things such as mindset are hard to project, and from the eye test, Porzingis does not seem to have that “it” factor when you watch him.
Upside: High Level Starter
I don’t think Porzingis is Nikoloz Tskitishvili 2.0, but there is a definitive risk factor here. A lot of things have to go right for Porzingis to be an impact player in the league, mostly stemming around strength addition and heightened IQ. He should carve out a role in the league at the very least as a stretch 4 who has a quick release and can attack closeouts, while affording some rim protection defensively with the ability to defend respectably on the perimeter in pick and roll with his feet. The bust factor is too high for me to think about Porzingis over surer prospects such as Towns, Russell, Winslow, Cauley-Stein, Hezonja, Okafor and even Mudiay, but if placed in the right system he’s worth a dice roll in the lower half of the lottery. I don’t see all-star potential here, but Porzingis could very well emerge as a high-level starter on good team with his analytically appealing skill-set.