Will Kristaps Porzingis become an NBA All-Star next season?

Brooklyn Nets v New York Knicks

Following all of this offseason’s movement thus far, 25% of the NBA’s 2017 Eastern Conference All-Star Team (Jimmy Butler, Paul Millsap, and Paul George) is migrating out west. Should Carmelo Anthony join his good friend Chris Paul with the Houston Rockets, he could be headed in that direction as well. While Gordon Hayward made a big splash in deciding to join the Boston Celtics, he figures to play a more secondary role behind Isaiah Thomas than he did in Utah.

What does this all mean? Up to four all-star spots in the eastern conference could potentially be up for grabs. With Kristaps Porzingis set to embrace a more centralized role in Jeff Hornacek’s free offense next season, this could very well be his time.

The 21 year old came rather close to receiving such an honor last season. He was putting together an especially unique and special campaign during the season’s early months. In November, Porzingis averaged 21.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. Truly looking like the star New York expects him to become, he followed that up with a December highlighted by averages of 18.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks. All the while, the Knicks were doing all they could to keep their head above water and remain competitive. Unfortunately, the young gun had to fight off the injury bug towards the end of the calendar year. As he entered 2017, Porzingis struggled to maintain the same level of quality play and his team’s playoff hopes went out the window.

There’s something very interesting to note about Porzingis’ early season success. In both November and December, Carmelo Anthony still led the Knicks in scoring. Porzingis was able to excel, all while playing second fiddle to the veteran by a small margin. There’s a good chance he’ll thrive as the go-to-guy in New York, especially as he comes into his own during season number three. Still, it’s worth pointing out that playing alongside an offensive juggernaut in Anthony took some defensive pressure off Porzingis.

Of course, his offensive production isn’t what makes Porzingis special by itself. It’s nice that he can score the basketball, but it’s the way in which he goes about doing so that makes him the unique player this league admires. At 7’3″, Porzingis can crash the boards and fight for second chance points. He can excite the home crowd with high-flying put-backs, second chance buckets, and tomahawk dunks. On the flip side, he has the finesse to hit bombs from downtown. Not many others can say the same. His rebound and block numbers are strong complements to his already solid efforts. There’s no one else in the NBA that boasts his same level of versatility.

Porzingis needs to stay healthy and become more consistent if he wants to take the next step and reach that level of stardom. Nevertheless, the NBA does happen to reward winning when it comes to recognizing all-star talent. New York would likely have to maintain a competitive level and keep themselves remotely in the postseason conversation for Porzingis to seriously be considered. That said, if he can duplicate his early numbers from last season, it all might be too much to ignore, regardless of what New York’s record is.

Despite what Phil Jackson thought, Porzingis is ready to keep evolving. It’ll be interesting to see if he can produce like desired, and if he’ll be able to do so without Anthony by his side.

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