Overall, New York Knicks president Phil Jackson likes what he’s seen from rookie Kristaps Porzingis, but he hasn’t been terribly pleased with the recent progress of his big man.
Speaking with media on Friday, Jackson admitted the 7-foot-3 rookie has hit a the proverbial rookie wall (h/t Ian Begley of ESPN New York).
Phil Jackson called Kristaps Porzingis a "phenom" but acknowledged that the rookie has hit a wall at this point. pic.twitter.com/7y2V38I8Dd
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) March 11, 2016
The numbers certainly validate Jackson’s views that Porzingis has hit a wall.
On the season, Porzingis is averaging 13.9 points and 7.3 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game. He is shooting 42.1 percent from the field, 33.3 percent on threes, and 84.5 percent from the free-throw line.
In his last 10 games, Porzingis has averaged 13.5 points, 5 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks. Over that stretch, he’s been shooting 39.3 percent from the field, 25.7 percent from three-point range, and 83.3 percent on free throws.
While the regression would appear to be somewhat alarming, it’s completely expected. Porzingis never played more than 50 games in a season in Europe. To date, he’s played 64 games in the 2015-16 NBA season.
Whether they come from the international field or college, rookies have generally never played anything close to an 82-game season. So, when they get into the final leg of the NBA season, “hitting a wall” is only natural.
In a strange way, the Knicks’ current situation — out of the playoff race — gives them an advantage with their struggling rookie.
Porzingis (and any rookie on a bad team) gets to use this season as a way to get acclimated to an 82-game haul. If Porzingis slows down at the end of the year, it doesn’t really matter as it’s not costing the Knicks any playoff positioning. If the Knicks are more involved in a playoff race in future years, Porzingis won’t be as likely to slow down in the season’s final games.
Phil Jackson is right; Kristaps Porzingis has hit a wall. But that news is nothing to be alarmed about.