Since the Dallas Mavericks traded for Kristaps Porzingis in 2019, there’s been plenty of fake ink spilled on all sorts of topics regarding him. You’ve probably read many articles about him or his role. Some arguing for him, some against. Or maybe you’ve debated with people on Twitter, Facebook or in groupchats, cramping your thumbs while typing out a thirteen tweet thread in all-caps.
Porzingis has only played 97 games for Dallas, but he’s one of the most controversial players to ever wear a Mavericks jersey. There’s plenty to discuss. Does he fit with Luka Doncic on defense? Can he be a secondary scorer on a contender? Will he ever stay healthy enough for any of it to matter? And if the basketball stuff isn’t enough, Mark Cuban is hinting there might be strife behind the scenes, though Porzingis denies that.
It’s a lot to think about, especially considering he’s the highest paid player on the team. Usually contracts like that are handed out to players who put up numbers no matter what. Players that can score in any system. Players that make their teams better on defense. Usually the highest paid player on a team is just plug and play. That’s why he makes all the money. And if you pair him with an electric playmaker who’s built to get his teammates buckets, it’s supposed to go really well. The questions are supposed to be at the other spots on the roster.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. And there’s a lot of this that’s out of Porzingis’s control. He can’t help if he’s injured, or if the Mavericks play a style of defense that’s not best suited for him. And there are times when Rick Carlisle could use Porzingis as more than a 7’3” spot up shooter.
But Porzingis seems to think the offense should run through him more often than it does. And that just isn’t the case. If Doncic is a perennial MVP candidate (which he is), then the offense starts and ends with him. It’s up to Porzingis to find his place in that system. In the past, he’s subtly suggested he’s not okay with that:
Kristaps Porzingis was the Mavs’ most efficient starter in tonight’s loss — 23 points (10-19 FG) — but he didn’t take a shot in 7 mins in Q4.— Callie Caplan (@CallieCaplan) April 8, 2021
His answer when @espn_macmahon asked: “Good question. It’s just the plays we were running. Happened before also.” pic.twitter.com/lSpre6RrvG
Porzingis has also failed to shoot down the notion that there are issues between he and Doncic within the offense.
Kristaps Porzingis on his dynamic with Luka Doncic: “Yeah, we’re trying to play together and help each other. We want to win. At the end, we all want to win here, and that’s it. We have to keep playing and keep playing together and keep playing well and help each other.”— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) April 9, 2021
As Cuban has mentioned, Doncic and Porzingis don’t need to be best friends off the court. They don’t even have to like each other on the court. But every player on the roster has to know what their role is and perform it to the best of their ability. Porzingis keeps hinting that he’s unhappy with his.
Before his ankle/knee injuries, Porzingis in last few games had started at PF, with Dwight Powell at C. Porzingis in the past has said he is most comfortable/productive in Mavs’ offense at C. I asked him today how he feels about playing PF. He was, shall we say, diplomatic. pic.twitter.com/EStVgsy0il— Brad Townsend (@townbrad) May 10, 2021
Porzingis often tries to score through post ups or by dribbling into midrange jump shots, neither of which are effective or part of the Mavericks’ offense when he’s not on the floor. Through his words and play, Porzingis seems to be expressing that he’s not willing to be the second option on a contending team.
And that just can’t be the case. Luka Doncic is a generational talent and the best player on the Mavericks. The team will be built around his skills, abilities, and demands. Porzingis has to realize that. Six years ago, LeBron James fired off a cryptic tweet that’s apt for this situation:
Stop trying to find a way to FIT-OUT and just FIT-IN. Be apart of something special! Just my thoughts— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 8, 2015
It’s time for Porzingis to fit into the Mavericks, because they’re not going to change for him. The best version of Porzingis, the version that sets screens and pops or rolls to the basket, and is active on the boards, raises this team’s ceiling. When he moves on offense and defense, the Mavericks are a potential juggernaut.
This postseason is a chance for Porzingis to show he understands his strengths and weaknesses. If he’s active on both ends of the court, the Mavericks will be dangerous. No team will want to see them for seven games. But if he falls back into some of the habits he’s developed this season, like trying to post up big wings or simply spotting up for 3-pointers, it’ll prove he’s not willing to play winning basketball.
If Porzingis can handle being the secondary star to Doncic, and just fit into what the Mavericks envision for him, there’s no telling how far this team can go.