Kristaps Porzingis’ first season playing with the Dallas Mavericks certainly got off to a shaky start. It was his first time playing NBA basketball after 18 months off from his 2018 ACL injury. Not only that, it was a new team, system and role to get acclimated to.
“After the ACL I had no doubts in my mind I was ready to go. It was just a matter of finding a rhythm.”
It didn’t take too long for Porzingis to settle in and find his groove.
For the games played from Monday, February 24th through Sunday, March 1st, KP was named Western Conference Player of the Week. It was a 4-game stretch where he led the Mavericks to a 3-1 record with averages of 26.3 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks – all team highs for that week. That week felt like validation that the Unicorn was back and the Mavericks landed their second star alongside Luka Doncic.
10 days later, the NBA COVID-shutdown happened. It couldn’t have come at a worse time for Porzingis who was arguable playing the best basketball of his young career.
[insert Bubble KP]
In the six (of eight) seeding games, KP averaged 30.5 points and 9.5 rebounds - earning him a spot on the Kia NBA All-Seeding Games Second Team with players like Giannis and Kawhi. He continued his great play, showing what he can do as the Robin to Luka’s Batman. KP excelled as the trail man knocking down deep 3s, making the defense find him at half-court. He hurt defenses left and right by both popping and aggressively rolling to the rim. Yes, Luka played at a level that got him MVP votes, but the most efficient offense in NBA history is also in large-part due to Kristaps Porzingis.
After a 3 consecutive seasons of the Dallas Mavericks not making the playoffs, the goal for the 2019-2020 young team was to get there. It was to get Luka, Kristaps and company as much experience as possible playing together in big-time moments. Even with Porzingis getting sidelined after Game 3 in the First Round matchup vs the Los Angeles Clippers, I believe last season will only facilitate growth for this young, dynamic duo as we inch closer to the 2020-2021 season.
So what should we expect from the Unicorn in Year 2 with the Mavs?
It has to be his health, right? Specifically his durability to finish a season. In Game 1 vs the Clippers, Porzingis experienced a “contact injury” to his knee while chasing an offensive rebound. The Mavs’ medical team worked their magic to get the Unicorn feeling good enough to play in Games 2 and 3 but was a late scratch minutes before Game 4. It was later confirmed that he had experienced a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee that would sideline him the rest of the series.
KP underwent surgery to address the injury in early October, thinking the NBA season wouldn't start until February or maybe even March. That was part of the reason the surgery was delayed. He also mentioned during Virtual Media Days that the medical team wanted to also give the knee some time to see if surgery could be avoided.
How many games into the season until we see Porzingis back on the court? Well, it depends who you ask.
“I want to be out there as soon as possible for Christmas and play those games, but we’ll see,” Porzingis said during the Virtual Media Days.
Per Donnie Nelson, though, the Mavs have targeted January 1 as the date that Kristaps Porzingis will be cleared for on-court activity. After that, who knows when we see him on the court.
Best Case Scenario
Porzingis misses only the first few games of the season. He comes back 100% healthy. He completes the entire season and everyone gains some much needed confidence in his durability. He proves he can be the second-best player on a championship team. He and Luka have magical moments together in the playoffs. And last but not least, Giannis watches all of this and decides he wants to join the party.
For real though, Porzingis had a noticeable upward trajectory last season. As experience in Dallas and with Luka grew, so did his game. In Year 2 of Luka and KP - I would expect continued growth, which would lead to continued success, which would lead to a deep playoff run. What a fun time to be a Mavericks fan!
Worst Case Scenario
I don't even want to answer this question. I don't want to say it. Or type it. I don't want you reading it.
Okay, fine. Please, basketball gods, no more knee injuries. Or just injuries, period.
Last season Porzingis experienced “soreness” in his right knee that forced him to miss 10 games in January. What kind of caution do they take again this season, especially in a condensed schedule?
Can we truly take comfort that both of his major injuries (ACL and now meniscus) are contact injuries as opposed to non-contact injuries? KP seems to think so:
“Obviously I had two big injuries... if these two were non-contact injuries then I think it would be much more concerning but because they have been contact injuries that means those things can happen.”
They have happened. Here’s to hoping they happen no more!