Kristaps Porzingis and specifically his post game have been the subject of a ton of discussion. Rick Carlisle famously said that posting Porzingis was not an efficient play. Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’neal lambasted Carlisle for that opinion. New Coach Jason Kidd made it a point that the Dallas Mavericks were going to unleash full unicorn Porzingis and this included posting him up more.
The truth is, Porzingis has actually finished fewer possessions per game in the post this season than last season (3.4 this season, 3.7 last season). Some of this has been Porzingis being more willing to pass out of the post when he is unable to get a good look which has contributed to a career high 2.0 assists per game. This was heavily influenced by a career high 7 assists in his last game.
Posting Porzingis against a mismatch is not a bad thing. He is extremely tall, a gifted shooter with good touch and has surprising first step quickness when he attacks. The most important thing is making sure he is actually attacking a mismatch though. Mikal Bridges, Marcus Smart, and Jrue Holiday are not mismatches for Porzingis. They have some combination of length, strength, defensive IQ and center of gravity which make them able to handle Porzingis (and other long forwards) in the post rather easily.
Jason Kidd was a better version of Marcus Smart defensively before Marcus Smart. Kidd spent a large portion of time guarding Kevin Durant in the 2011 Western Conference Finals at the ripe old age of 38. Watching many of those possessions, they look very similar to watching Porzingis being guarded by Smart.
Durant was and is a better player than Porzingis but some of the same issues apply. He is incredibly long with a higher center of gravity than Kidd. Because of the height differential and Kidd’s stature as a defender, he was allowed to be quite physical. He stole entry passes (as often happens on Porzingis’ post ups), he used his strength to force Durant to post from near the three point line and and he forced him to take difficult shots. Durant made some shots because he is an all time great player. Porzingis makes some shots because he is also talented, but in the long run those plays are losing propositions for the Mavericks.
The play above is a specific play from the video linked previously. It should look stunningly familiar to Mavericks fans. The Thunder run a screen and roll, get a switch into a “mismatch” and immediately go into a post of that mismatch. Except Kidd is strong enough to prevent Durant from establishing and holding good post position and is able to get around Durant to knock away the entry pass.
Not being able to post these types of defenders is not an indictment of Porzingis. They do this to a lot of long big men. This is a specific strength of these types of defenders to bait opposing players into posting them which is an already inefficient play type. Bam Adebayo does the same thing to guards in reverse when they feel they have an advantage and waste time isolating him after a switch only to realize he is simply a huge wing as far as mobility is concerned.
Unlocking Porzingis is extremely important to the Dallas Mavericks. We’ve seen how far Luka Doncic and the Lukettes get in the playoffs and the answer is not far. He needs help and Porzingis is capable of being part of that help. Posting true mismatches is even one of the ways Porzingis needs to score. But first, he needs to become smarter about the right types of defenders to punish on the block and Jason Kidd is the perfect person to help him do that.