Here's your Kristaps Porzingis update: the future face of the New York Knicks told reporters on Monday at media day that he's a better ballhandler than he was as a rookie. He also said that he has more lower-body strength after a summer spent working on his core rather than simply trying to put on weight.
From the New York Post's Marc Berman:
"My ballhandling is better now," said Porzingis, the Knicks' starting power forward. "I just feel comfortable with the ball now. So you're going to see some new stuff this season. You're going to see some new stuff and hopefully some more put-back dunks."
"Last offseason, we made a little mistake that all I did was work upper body and try to get bigger," Porzingis said. "This offseason, I really focused on my lower strength, my legs, core, make sure that it's strong. And that's going to give me strength to be able to hold my ground defensively and offensively as well. And my legs have gotten much stronger. And I'm able to, when I'm driving, I'm able to stay lower. Defensively I can be lower and quick on my feet."
This is everything that Knicks fans want to hear. The modern NBA is about versatility and skill, not necessarily bulk, and Porzingis showed last season that he could handle himself against bigger players, anyway. In fact, in his effort to get bigger last summer could have worked against him -- he sometimes appeared fatigued in the second half of the season. It sounds like he'll be better equipped to handle the rigors of an 82-game schedule this time.
Porzingis is special because he's 7-foot-3 but you can imagine him operating from just about anywhere on the floor. He has a smooth, pretty release on his 3-point shot. He finishes aggressively around the rim, chasing offensive rebounds as tirelessly as anybody in the league. If he has indeed strengthened his core and his ballhandling in a significant way, then he'll be able to slash and score much more easily than he did last year. Couple that with improvement in the post and he'll be close to unguardable.
All that is to say that it's easy to get excited about Porzingis' future. Kevin Durant called him a "unicorn" because he projects to be a modern center with guard skills. Let's remember, though, that development isn't linear and it can take a summer or two of working on something before a player is comfortable using it in an NBA game. Instead of just assuming Porzingis is going to be a superstar right away, it would be wise to wait and see what this New York team looks like. With Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony handling the ball, he might not have that many opportunities to be a playmaker just yet.