Roughly one hour after Phil Jackson selected Latvian center Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth overall pick in last Thursday’s NBA draft, the Knicks president issued a statement through a press release that seemingly suggested the 19-year-old would someday emerge as a franchise player.
“We could not pass on Kristaps,” said Jackson. “He has eye-opening talent and is ready for the challenge to play in New York City. He can contribute for us this season.”
The plethora of Knick fans at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where the draft was held, vehemently disagreed with the first part of Jackson’s assertion, booing loudly when league commissioner Adam Sliver announced the pick. The conclusion of Jackson’s claim remains to be seen.
It’s likely that Jerian Grant, a 22-year-old point guard who spent four years at Notre Dame, will have a more significant impact for the Knicks next season than Porzingis. After being chosen by the Washington Wizards with the 19th pick, Grant, a dynamic playmaker with excellent positional size at 6-foot-4, was traded to the Knicks for Tim Hardaway Jr.
Porzingis may develop into a player around whom the franchise will build a championship contender, but by the time the 7-foot-3, 215-pound string bean is ready to assume such a lofty role, Jackson and Carmelo Anthony, who currently holds the designation of franchise player, will be planning their post-Knicks endeavors.
By Jackson’s own admission, it will take several years for Porzingis to gain the requisite strength and physicality to consistently produce at a high level over an 82-game regular season schedule. Emmanuel Mudiay, a 19-year, 6-foot-5 point guard with superior athleticism, would have been the better short-term choice for the Knicks. Mudiay was drafted No. 7 overall by the Denver Nuggets.
Jackson says Porzingis was the best option for securing a solid future. Nevertheless, today, he is no consolation for Anthony and long-suffering fans.