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Film Study: Kristaps Porzingis and the fadeaway?

The Unicorn may have something else in his toolbox.

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

Before the Mavericks traveled to Orlando, Kristaps Porzingis mentioned in a post-practice interview that he had added another element to his game. He wouldn’t admit what it was, but told the media to be on the look out for it once he returned to the court.

After getting back on the hardwood for scrimmages, Porzingis showed flashes of a skill near and dear to Dallas’ heart: the fadeaway jumper. While it’s unclear if this is even the skill he’s worked on, it definitely looks like he’ll be using it more often. What you see below is all four fade-aways Porzingis shot during the Sixers scrimmage.

The statistics on Porzingis’s fadeaway throughout his career are best described as random. He hasn’t really been able to hit the shot consistently since the 2016-17 season when he shot an incredible 75 percent on that shot type. This season Porzingis is shooting them at the second highest frequency while only making a career-low 28.6 percent. Averaging 18.1 points per game throughout his career, Porzingis is clearly not hurting without a consistent fadeaway. But as he continually increases the frequency at which he takes these shots, it’s obvious he’d like for it to be another weapon in his arsenal.

Kristaps Porzingis’s field goal percentage on fadeaways and fadeaways attempted throughout his career
All statistics derived from’s shooting splits tool

What made the Dirk Nowitzki fadeaway one of the most unstoppable moves of all time was Dirk’s unique use of his body. Dirk initiated contact by backing down the defender, then suddenly using a shoulder fake and lifting his right knee to create space on the jump shot. This, in combination with his seven foot frame and a high release, made the shot virtually impossible to defend.

Porzingis’s fadeaway is no where at the level of or even comparable to Dirk’s. Yet despite Porzingis sidelined with a torn ACL, the two did spend part of a season together as teammates, and the film shows Dirk clearly gave him some pointers.

At seven feet, three inches tall, Porzingis has the advantage on almost anyone defending him. Where his height really comes in handy is with his stride. Porzingis can create more than enough space just by taking the long step he does when turning around.

The height really comes in handy on switches. Porzingis doesn’t really need to fadeaway when a guard is defending him, but it’s unstoppable when he does.

Much to his benefit, Porzingis is rather quick for a center. His quickness improves the effectiveness of his ball fake. If you bite on his shoulder fake at all, even as little as Richaun Holmes does below, it’s going to be too late to recover by the time he’s shooting due to his high release point.

Porzingis could make an effort to be a bit craftier on the fadeaway. Below he shows a great step back that separates him from Nikola Vucevic. He’s surprisingly quick for his size and has a few tricks like this in his bag. When he’s defended by a center, using a move like this more often is going to be really hard to stop with the size and speed mismatch.

Another thing that would be nice to see is Porzingis return to using that extended 90-degree knee more often. You can see just how much separation it created from Tobias Harris in the Sixers scrimmage.

He actually did use it rather often during that efficient 2016-17 season, perhaps allowing him to knock down the shot more consistently.

The Mavericks have proven to be reluctant on using Porzingis in post-up situations. It’s primarily because he’s just not been that good, shooting 36 percent on post ups and a very bad .79 points per possession. He’s also averaging just 3.1 post ups per game this season. Compare that to the 8.0 post ups per game he had in his last season as a Knick, the sixth most in the NBA that year. Considering he shot the ball much better in those possessions then (43 percent with more frequency than this season), it’s reasonable to assume he’ll regain form down the line.

For now it matters less, since Dallas uses a different system. The Mavericks offense often utilizes a five-man out approach, leaving minimal opportunities for Porzingis to back someone down as he’s usually on the three-point line. But maybe this is something the Mavericks begin to think about using more often, particularly if pace of play slows. The fadeaway will never be Porzingis’s staple move, nor will be it the Mavericks main source of offense. If it can be incorporated and developed in a way that it produces a few baskets a night, “The Unicorn” may have found yet another way to give the defense a headache.