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This postseason is Kristaps Porzingis’ chance to fit in, not fit out

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Porzingis needs to prove he’s willing to play within the Mavericks’ offense.

New Orleans Pelicans v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

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:

Porzingis has also failed to shoot down the notion that there are issues between he and Doncic within the offense.

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.

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:

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.