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Roundtable: Checking in on Kristaps Porzingis

With 20 something games in, it’s time to give some opinions on his play

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s Note: Most of these answers were turned in before the Detroit game on Thursday

How’s everyone feeling about Kristaps Porzingis so far?

Kevin: I am exactly where I was hoping to be. Kristaps is 22 games into his tenure with the Mavericks and he’s averaging essentially 16 and 9 with a block and a half. His shooting percentages aren’t great, but his offense should get better and better as he gets used to his body and his role. His defense, on the other hand, already looks to be trending positive. 8.7 per game is a career high in rebounding, he’s still blocking shots, and he has a positive Defensive Box Plus/Minus. He doesn’t look like a superstar, but I didn’t expect him to. So I’m perfectly happy with Kristaps through 22 games.

Matt: The team success is covering most ills, but there are spots where KP could improve. His topline numbers of 16 points and 9 rebounds are nice — the rebounds in particular are promising and he’s averaging about 1.5 more per game than he was previously — but his offensive efficiency is not yet back to what many, myself included, we probably expecting. His averages in things like FT%, 2pt%, 3pt% and FG% are all either the worst of his career or close to it, hovering just above what he was doing his rookie year.

The thing that makes the promise of a fully realized KP so tantalizing is that it’s not so much wish-casting like we’ve been doing with players like Delon Wright or Dorien Finney-Smith, (will they or won’t they average career highs in 3pt%?!) it’s that we’ve already seen him do it before. We know what should be possible. Right now, Porzingis is doing a lot of positive things on the floor, particularly with blocks and rebounding numbers that are in line with, or better than, his past marks, but his “shooting touch,” whatever that entails, still seems to be on the horizon.

The hope that we’ll see the All-Star Knicks version eventually arrive to bolster an already league leading offense is what’s giving people not just playoff hopes, but the ability to make some noise in the playoffs. However, it remains a possibility that we don’t ever see that version of Porzingis this year, and it takes a full year for him to get back to his prior self; much like what we’re seeing with players like Gordon Hayward in Boston or, to some extent, Paul George’s return to the Pacers after a major injury.

Jordan: From my view, any production Porzingis can provide this season is a bonus. Him getting into game shape and settled into his role in the system should be a season-long process. To expect faster results would be impatient and shortsighted. This is all to build toward being a contender a season or two from now.

His effort on the glass has been the best development, his shot blocking, solid. I think eventually he’ll find his legs offensively, and in the meantime, is still bending defenses with his spacing.

Off the floor, I’ve been impressed with Porzingis’ positivity, his dealing with the media, and his willingness to be open and honest while also supporting the team as a whole. The reputation that preceded him to Dallas could have left some uneasy with how he’d handle playing poorly, or how he’s being used. Instead, he’s put that to rest so far. Winning cures ills, but Porzingis has certainly been an important leader.

Sam: I’ve been up and down with Porzingis. It was foolish to think he wouldn’t start slow, so there are no surprises there, but he looks completely out of sorts on offense. He started practicing last season, and the Mavericks had a whole summer to implement him into the flow and scheme him good looks, but so far, he looks incapable of scoring unless he’s bombing threes. And even then, he hasn’t shot great. He has a knack for making a highlight-reel play crashing the glass, but I’ve been pretty disappointed with him offensively. It’d be one thing to just miss good looks, but the Mavericks’ incessant need to post him up is essentially equal to a turnover. I need more from Porzingis on offense because the Mavericks could be contenders if he rounds into form.

But like Jordan said, Porzingis is returning premium value because defenses are terrified of leaving him open. If you can’t see it in games, just watch Luka Doncic waltz down the lane next game and odds are KP pulled the big out of the lane. And he’s made a terrific impact defensively. Although he’s not a great one-on-one defender, his shot blocking presence has given attackers second thoughts, and his length poses problems nightly.

Josh: While Porzingis hasn’t lived up to the dreams I had dancing in my head for the past 6 months, it’s no surprise that a 7’3 basketball player coming off an ACL injury and 20 months of rehab doesn’t look right. I’ve come to accept that any meaningful statistical production the Mavs get out of KP is a bonus and this season is just about getting his body and mind right to playing intense NBA basketball. Just by standing on the court, Porzingis opens up so much for the Mavs offense, so even with the struggles it’s not like he’s a complete zero on the offensive end. I can only imagine the struggle it must be to rehab from a major injury, not play basketball for almost two years and then coming back from that layoff learning a new scheme and a new role. These things take time, like Gordon Hayward’s bad injury a couple years ago. Plus, Porzingis seems to have bought into what the Mavs are selling, has been a good locker room guy and has never shied away from answering questions after a poor game.

So basketball wise, no complaints about Porzingis. His offense comes and goes, but his spacing always helps and he’s been great on the boards and guarding the rim. I will admit, I still think about the rape and extortion investigations that were revealed earlier this season. It’s in the back of my mind, despite the fact that nothing has come out since the initial reports. It’s so incredibly odd that nothing from that story has developed over time, whether on the rape investigation front or the extortion front. It now feels likely that whatever happens, it’ll be settled in the background with gag orders and confidentiality clauses in place to prevent the story from going out. It just kinda sucks -- stories like this tend to disappear, with no closure.