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How Kristaps Porzingis looks in the bubble will be huge for the Mavericks success

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Can the seven footer maintain an impressive comeback from injury in Orlando?

Memphis Grizzlies v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s been an interesting season for Kristaps Porzingis, to say the least.

Porzingis’ first 31 games as a Dallas Maverick were very promising as he averaged 17.3 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game. Then, on New Years Eve, Porzingis began experiencing right knee soreness during warm-ups against the Thunder and would go on to miss 10 straight games. The injury also kept him sidelined in any back-to-backs the Mavericks played, something the team has to go through in the bubble (August 10 vs. Jazz, August 11 vs. Trailblazers). Some have been questionable about how healthy Porzingis truly is, but he sounded confident during his media availability on July 3:

Despite load management before the shutdown, Kristaps says his knee felt great as he returned to basketball this past season. “Now with the extra time we’ve had...I feel really comfortable back on the court.” He mentions the extra time has allowed him to learn the system more and have many conversations with Coach Carlisle.

Despite the knee soreness, the 20 games after his injury were impressive. He showed clear improvements, especially scoring the basketball, averaging 22.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game. Right now, the big question is how he can continue to play alongside Luka Donic. The duo played together in just 41 out of the Mavericks 67 games this season. Despite the limited amount of experience together, the numbers the pair put up were just starting to take a turn. According to NBA.com/Stats, Doncic and Porzingis had the eighth best offensive rating of Mavericks duos who played more than 500 minutes together this season. A big part of this is how well Porzingis functions when setting screens. His size makes him a constant threat to roll to the basket and go up for a lob. He also is an extraordinarily good shooter for his size. Among seven footers who take at least five catch-and-shoot three’s game, Porzingis is the only one in the league to shoot them at over 35 percent. Look at how effective he is at scoring the basketball, even after a small brush screen:

The key to Porzingis’ offensive success in the bubble will come from how well he sets screens and moves off the ball. If he can continue to set good screens and knock down shots behind the arc, he can provide a lot of valuable scoring when he’s on the court. On defense, Porzingis has the highest block percentage of the Mavericks regular rotation players, according to Basketball Reference. If he can stay anchored down low, look for him to swat away at least two shots a game.