Kristaps Porzingis reminded everyone he is loved in New York. He scored 29 points twice as a rookie. The New York Knicks didn’t have to wait long to see him flash potential again. It took eleven games, six in which he scored 20 or more points. Finally, he landed a signature game. Porzingis scored 25 points in the first half against the Detroit Pistons. He missed just three shots in that half, and finished with a career-high 35 points. New York fans could glimpse the future. However, Porzingis downplayed his role in his post-game interview. He deferred to his teammates’ help and team ball. He even dismissed the MVP chants for him. Porzingis proved himself to be a model teammate. Recently, he spoke about how Carmelo Anthony has helped his growth:
“Without Melo,” Porzingis said, “it would be so much more difficult [for me] to get 30 points, or whatever. People don’t realize that. He draws a lot of attention. He’s the main focus for the other team. That opens stuff for me. Without him it would be much more difficult. I’m happy to have aggressive guys like him and [Derrick] Rose so I can get those open looks.”
Is Anthony Holding Him Back?
But is that really true? Not surprisingly, on Porzingis’s career night, he got the most touches. Not far behind him was Derrick Rose, and only then do we see Carmelo Anthony. It is not that big a deal. On a career night, Porzingis had the most touches. It is to be expected. Except, in his second-biggest scoring game, a loss to the Utah Jazz, he also had more touches. Derrick Rose was second and Anthony third. Rose consistently gets a lot of touches as the point guard. The offensive system dictates that Anthony gets the most touches. But Porzingis’ offense blossoms when Anthony gets the ball less than him.
The Stats Tell a Story
Porzingis says that he needs Carmelo Anthony to draw attention. Actually, his field goal percentage on contested shots stays high even if Anthony is on the floor with him. Players are guarding him tightly, even with Anthony on the floor, but Porzingis continues to make shots. Two times Anthony touched the ball more during Porzingis’s best scoring performances. However, Porzingis had nearly 10 minutes less playing time and he still shot effectively. The tape supports the idea that Porzingis’s dominance is inevitable, with or without Anthony.
The ball bypassed Anthony, but the defense didn’t sag off Porzingis. The defense went right to him!
It is Anthony’s shooting percentage that rises when Porzingis scores a lot. Here, the eyes of the defense are all on Porzingis. For one second, the defense glances at Anthony, but it does nothing to get Porzingis a better shot.
If Anthony is off the floor, it opens up the lane for Porzingis. For example, Porzingis has a ton of room to operate in this play:
Carmelo Anthony’s reaction is in there for a reason. Does Anthony create easy shots for Porzingis? Certainly. In a perfect world, Anthony is drawing defenders to open up Porzingis for easy buckets. However, this isn’t a perfect world. Anthony is not doing that, yet Porzingis is still scoring. The best thing Anthony can do for Porzingis’s offense is exactly the last part of that clip: applaud, from the bench.