The New York Knicks need Kristaps Porzingis to return as soon as possible, but he shouldn’t make his way back onto the court until he’s reached full strength.
The New York Knicks are in the midst of a worse stretch than even the most cynical of critics could have projected. Despite possessing as much pure talent as any Eastern Conference team after the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York is 19-24 overall and 3-11 over its past 14 games.
Though he hasn’t missed every game during that stretch, it’s undeniable that the Knicks have sorely missed starting power forward Kristaps Porzingis.
Porzingis is nursing a sore right achilles tendon that has both hindered him when he’s been active and kept him out of multiple games. He’s missed seven games already, including the Jan. 18 clash with the Boston Celtics.
Even when Porzingis has been available, he’s been greatly limited in his physical capabilities.
Though the source of the injury hasn’t yet been diagnosed, it stands to reason that it began when he suffered a knee injury on Dec. 22. A knee injury and an achilles injury aren’t the same thing, but Porzingis played in three consecutive games following the incident.
During those games, he played 37, 42, and 38 respective minutes—high totals for a player on a bum knee.
As for why Porzingis has missed six games, including four in a row, it all comes down to physical limitations. He’s struggling to push off of his right foot and drive, which is reason enough to err on the side of caution.
An optimist’s take would be that even the great Michael Jordan was limited by an injury in his second NBA season.
Though proceeding with caution is the most rational approach to this issue, it’s hard to deny how much the Knicks are suffering. One could easily argue that Porzingis has been the Knicks’ best defensive player in 2016-17, as well as their most consistent offensive player.
The numbers display just how badly the Knicks are suffering without his presence.
New York has defensive ratings of 106.5 with Porzingis on the court and 110.2 when he isn’t. That’s a difference of 3.7 points allowed per 100 possessions, as well as the difference between somewhat manageable and atrocious.
The Knicks are finally giving a concerted effort on defense, but losing Porzingis has stripped New York of its primary rim protector.
Not only is Porzingis averaging a team-high 2.0 blocks per game, but he’s holding opponents to 42.3 percent shooting at the rim—the second-best mark in the NBA.
On offense, Porzingis has an uncanny ability to stretch the floor, go to the post, and take his man off the bounce. He’s currently second on the Knicks in scoring with 19.4 points per game and has a higher field goal percentage than both Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose.
On both ends of the floor, the Knicks need Porzingis back as soon as possible.