• Michael Ryan

Identifying Kristaps Porzingis's Recent Struggles

Kristaps Porzingis is struggling and there’s no denying that. His numbers in the past seven games have been far below what he was putting him in the beginning of the season. The results of the struggles? The Knicks have now become a bad team that is now one game below .500.

It’s no secret that Porzingis is the team's best player and that the Knicks simply do not have the talent to overcome the struggles of the budding young star.

Various ailments have caused Porzingis to miss time in December. An elbow injury at the beginning of the month forced him to miss two games and a knee injury cost him two more games in the middle of the month.

In the seven games since returning from the knee injury, Porzingis has been playing 33.7 minutes a night but has been far less effective. Porzingis is scoring just 19.4 points a night on 35.8% shooting from the field and 25% from the three point line. His shooting struggles have even been shown on the foul line where he is now only hitting 77.5% of his free throw attempts.

Now compare these numbers to Porzingis overall numbers where he’s scoring 24.1 points a game on 44.1 shooting from the field, 37.0% from the three point line and 83.2% from the foul stripe.

The results for the Knicks? Not pretty. The team has lost five of seven with Porzingis struggling and now find themselves on the outside looking in for the East playoff picture.

There a couple of reasons why the production and efficiency of Porzingis has dropped.

The first being Porzingis has not done a good job at maximizing defensive mismatches and playing in the flow of the offense. Porzingis has been rushing shots and settling for jump shots instead of getting to the basket.

The second being the Knicks desperately miss Tim Hardaway Jr. as a secondary scorer on the court. Right now, opposing defense focus the entire game plan on stopping Porzingis as there’s no other offensive threat out there for the Knicks. Yeah, Courtney Lee is having a career year offensively but he’s not a guy who can go out and score 25-30 points on any given night. Hardaway provided that element.

Hardaway has missed the past 16 games with a stress related injury in his leg. Porzingis is talented and will be an all-star for multiple years to come, but in Hardaway’s abensence, it has been evident that Porzingis's body is not developed enough to really be a focal point night and night out. Porzingis simply does not have the strength to be the only go-to player on the offense.

Defenses are able to sag off guys like Jarrett Jack, Frank Ntilikina, and Courtney Lee because they don’t respect the ability of those three players to drive past them and create offensively for themselves.

Defenders are also able to go under screens and double Porzingis because they don’t believe Jack or Ntilikina will be able to shoot the three at a high level consistently.

This leads to next issue Porzinigs is facing - the Knicks' guards inability to get inside.

Jarrett Jack currently leads the team with 7.6 drives to the basket per game. Want to know where that ranks among all NBA players? 70th.

That simply just cannot work for Porzingis who relies on his teammates at times to create shots for him. The Knicks do not have a player who can break down a defense to create an open look for Porzingis. Hardaway was that guy and although he was not driving much (5.6 drives to the basket), he was at least a threat to beat his man off the dribble for a layup.

All in all, Porzingis has proven to be an elite player and there's a good chance the ailments he faced in early December may still be impacting him. Seven games is something not to totally stress about for Knicks fans but is something worth keeping an eye on.

This year was all about development and it’ll be interesting to see how Porzingis continues to adjust his game to put up the elite numbers he was at the beginning of the year.

Hardaway should be back in the line-up in mid January, so help is on the way. In the meantime, Porzingis will have to find a way to break out of the slump he’s currently in.

Stats accurate as of 1/3/18

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