Godzingis or Porzingod, whichever you prefer.
Those are already the chosen nicknames from New York Knicks fans for Kristaps Porzingis, their rookie power forward, which should highlight their admiration for him just months into his NBA career.
Porzingis was selected by the Knicks with the fourth pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, but nobody would have predicted his meteoric rise a mere seven months later.
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The 20-year-old Latvian, then 19, took to the stage at the Draft last June to vociferous boos from the Knicks fans in attendance. Their displeasure was naïve, as very few fans had ever seen the youngster play a single minute of competitive basketball, and he has already proven why halfway into his rookie season.
Draft analysts and experts had projected that it would take Porzingis at least three or four years until he would be ready to compete at the highest level for the Knicks.
However, the Latvian has made a mockery of these predictions and is already a star of the Knicks team that has won five more games, in just over half a season, than the 17 victories in total during the last campaign.
Porzingis’ game has also drawn praise from future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki, who the young Latvian has drawn many comparisons to due to similarities with high shooting ability and their tall frames, with the legendary German saying the sky is the limit for the rookie.
Figures released by the NBA’s official online store last week stated Porzingis’ jersey was the fourth highest selling of any NBA player between October and December, behind only Steph Curry, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.
These numbers show just how quickly Porzingis has elevated himself to the top of the league in terms of popularity, with his sales also being boosted by the fact he plays for one of the most popular franchises in the league.
Here are some additional statistics from NBA.com which show why the Knicks are excited for the future with their new European import:
He is averaging 14 points per game
Although his efficiency has not been perfect, what has been clear form the outset is that Porzingis can put up points on a nightly basis.
His average of 14 points per game puts him third among rookies behind Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns, and makes him the Knicks second highest scorer so far this season.
With such a high points per game average and his huge scope to develop in the future, alongside the clear factor of experience to come, this shows great promise of a high-scorer for many years.
Eighth in blocked shots per game
However, it is not just on the offensive side of the ball where Porzingis has impressed, he has had a huge impact on the defensive end on the floor by using his tall stature well to block an average of two shots per game.
The Latvian was slated, by many of those who doubted his instant impact ahead of the draft, to struggle initially with defending, but using his seven-foot three-inch height to his advantage he has opened his career with a large number of blocks.
Porzingis has also added to his defensive prowess by grabbing 7.8 rebounds per game, 5.7 of which on the defensive side of the ball.
Yet he has provided some huge highlights in the first half of the season with some of his spectacular putback dunks on offensive rebounds, a few of which are shown in this highlight reel…
High free throw percentage
Porzingis also shows his shooting ability from the free throw line as well as further out on the court, converting 85.1% of his attempts from the line, second best for rookies.
It is even more impressive when you consider it is 23rd best of players with 100 or more free throw makes this year, and the NBA average for the current season is 75.6%.
Combine all of this and it looks certain that the Knicks have a star for many years to come, and a player who could finally help land them their first NBA title since 1973.