Last night, I watched the sloppy Sixers-Knicks game in its entirety. Here are a few observations from the game.
First off, the viewing experience of watching the Knicks on MSG is made five times as enjoyable thanks to Walt Frazier’s entertaining phrasing. According to this article from ESPN, Frazier acquired his massive vocabulary by reading the New York Times’ Sunday Arts & Leisure section and writing down whatever words that caught his eye. After he wrote down the words, Frazier then studied how each was used in a sentence using a method he calls “linking and thinking.”
Anyways, last night, Frazier produced a few classics in “shaking and baking,” “wheeling and dealing,” and “moving and grooving” before moving on to more eclectic ones, such as “swooping and hooping,” “hanging and banging,” and “slamming and jamming.”
Carmelo Anthony looked awful last night. Even in a game against the sorry Sixers, he’s just been off. Anthony missed layups and chucked up badly off-target three-pointers. He finished with twelve points off of sixteen inefficient shots in a subpar game. I don’t know if this is a trend (I sure hope not), but it’s something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
In last year’s draft, Nik Stauskas, a shooting guard, was taken by the Kings 8th overall. He started exactly one game for them, the season finale against the Lakers. Over the summer, Sacramento traded him to Philadelphia in a salary dump so they could open up extra cap space to sign the eight superstars who were all lining up to come play for the Kings.
Putting aside the hilariously lopsided deal, that put Stauskas in Philadelphia, on a team that didn’t care about winning whatsoever. The trade allowed him to play more minutes which would give him a larger opportunity to work through whatever issues he’d dealt with in his rookie season. Accordingly, his playing time has increased by nine minutes per game.
He didn’t have a big game or anything last night, with four shot attempts over twenty-four minutes, but one thing I noticed was his lightning-quick release on his three-point jumper. It was almost Curry-esque.
Last of all, let’s talk about Young Kristaps, who put up seventeen points, ten rebounds, and four blocks over thirty minutes in a customarily spectacular game.
Despite his height, Young Kristaps has a lovely jumper he used twice from three-point range, nailing both shots. Nothing about his shot seems forced; it’s natural and he’s able to smoothly catch the ball and rise up for a graceful shot.
Young Kristaps had a couple of impressive passes last night. Early in the game, he reached around his defender to deliver a nice pass to Robin Lopez for a layup. Later on, Jose Calderon and Young Kristaps ran a pick-and-roll. Calderon passed it to Young Kristaps as he came around the screen, and Young Kristaps started to drive towards the basket, but instead hit Calderon with a behind-the-back pass. He had another fine pass to Calderon where he spotted that the point guard had a step on his defender and lofted the ball over to him for an easy layup.
I can’t believe we’ve gotten this far into the article without mentioning a single one of Young Kristaps’ thunderous dunks. He had one where he drove lefty into the lane on Nerlens Noel and rose up for a tomahawk slam and another where Derrick Williams lobbed the ball up to him from behind the three-point line for a monstrous alley-oop.
Young Kristaps blocked four shots last night, but we’ll focus in on one. In the middle of the opening quarter, Isaiah Canaan drove to the basket with Young Kristaps moving along with him. Now, one of the concerns about Young Kristaps before the draft was that he was too thin to survive in the NBA. Although that’ll go away as he gets older, it was a problem in this case as, on his way to the rim, the 6’0″ Canaan rammed into the chest of the 7’3″ Young Kristaps, pushing him back. Despite this, Young Kristaps’ arms are some long enough that he was able to envelope Canaan, blocking the shot with ease.
Along with collecting four blocks, Young Kristaps picked up only one foul. This is a marked departure from Summer League, where across four games and 82 minutes, he picked up seventeen fouls, including a game with seven fouls in only 22 minutes. Working on his trouble with fouling was a high priority for Young Kristaps entering the season.
The problem was that Young Kristaps was often committing fouls due to his aggressiveness on defense. To measure the worth of his aggressiveness on defense, I used Young Kristaps’ SB/F (steals+blocks/fouls), a new statistic I made up to measure whether or not a player’s tenacity on defense is a positive, was a .647 during Summer League. So far this season, he’s improved it to a .881.
Using statistics from basketball-reference.com, there have been 276 games played so far this season, with roughly 2208 steals, 1435 blocks, and 5741 personal fouls across all 276 games. That works out to a league-average SB/F of .634, so, to my surprise, apparently Young Kristaps was roughly average during Summer League and has been exceptional so far this year.
Now that Young Kristaps can play aggressive defense while still staying on the floor, that combination, along with all of his other talents, makes it look like he’ll be a star.
Thanks to Young Kristaps, for the first time in a decade, Knicks fans, there’s a reason for hope.
I noticed I wrote “Young Kristaps” a lot this article, so here’s a quick explanation for why I call him that, rather than Porzingis. In the 2015 NBA Draft Diary, I wrote:
That’s it. Maybe as a compromise with myself I’ll alternate Young Kristaps with YK. I guess we’ll figure it out.
Super-duper quick pick for Thursday Night Football: Detroit +2 over Green Bay. Neither team makes me feel any good about betting on them, but Detroit’s been playing better lately so that’s as good a reason as any.