After recording a franchise worst 17 wins in the 2014-15 season, the only way the New York Knicks could realistically go was up.
Armed with the fourth pick in the 2015 draft, the Knicks took a punt on a 7'3", 19-year-old Latvian named Kristaps Porzingis who had been playing his basketball in Spain.
The results were better than most could have expected. The forward became the only rookie in NBA history to score more than 1,000 points, grab 500-plus rebounds, make over 75 three-pointers and block more than a 100 shots.
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Porzingis’ 134 blocks - courtesy of his monstrous wingspan - set a new Knicks rookie record, passing the great Patrick Ewing’s mark of 103 set during his debut campaign in the mid-80's.
Although New York's fortunes only marginally improved, it was progress, none the less. The frontcourt duo of Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony has brought renewed hope to the Big Apple, but they need more reinforcements this summer if the Knicks are to make the most of their talents.
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Whatever decisions are made in the front office, 20-year-old has set himself a target for next season to help him improve his game, and it starts with his body.
The Latvian believes he needs to pack on a few pounds so he can become a stronger presence in the paint and improve his all-around strength.
“Ten to 13 pounds would be the goal,’’ Porzingis said on Thursday after exit meetings. “I want to put on the weight, but I want to feel as quicker, if not quicker. That’s the goal. That’s why the offseason is so big for me. 245 would be a good weight for me.’’
Porzingis ended the season around the 233-pound mark, after clocking in at 239 to kick off the season. And that was after gaining 11 pounds from the time he got drafted to the beginning of training camp last October.
Interim coach Kurt Rambis doesn't know if he will be in the Big Apple next year, but regardless of his own future, he's prediciting big things for Porzingis.
Rambis said after the season finale in Indiana: “I think he’s just going to be awesome at some point of time. He’s just got to fill out, get stronger and his game has to evolve. He knows that. He’s going to have an impact on the game in so many areas.
I envision him rebounding the ball, pushing it in transition, playing with his back to the basket, on the block, off the block, elbow area, wing area, top of the key, playing the 4, the 5, switching on pick and rolls, being all over the floor, blocking shots.
“He’ll be one of the really unique players because he’s internally driven.”