When the New York Knicks traded away Carmelo Anthony at the end of the offseason, they essentially handed the keys to the franchise to 7’3” Latvian star forward Kristaps Porzingis.
So far, he has answered the call, posting 27.9 points and 7.9 rebounds over the team’s first seven games. The Knicks have gone 3-4 in that span and have benefitted from the 22 year old’s ability to put the ball in the basket.
He’s not shy with the ball in his hands, either. He has taken 22.0 shots per game and has attempted 6.7 free throws per contest, all while averaging a career-low 1.1 assists.
Therefore, when he has the rock, he’s more than likely going to try to score.
While Porzingis’ usage will undoubtedly decrease if and when New York surrounds him with other star players, for the moment, his value is at an all-time high. In fact, he’s eligible for a lucrative extension in the summer of 2018.
“He is eligible to sign a five-year rookie extension starting this summer that is worth between 25 and 30 percent of the salary cap (a projected $157 million to $188 million in total). If he wanted to become an unrestricted free agent, Porzingis would have to play his fifth season with the Knicks on a qualifying offer, which would be for $7.5 million -- significantly less annual money than he could earn via an extension.” Ian Begley of ESPN reported on Thursday.
While the NBA has made steps to incentive players to stay loyal to their original franchises, it might not be an easy decision for Porzingis, at least according to his brother.
"The most important question here is this: What do you really want to achieve in your career?" Janis Porzingis said in an interview in Latvian with Sportacentrs, according to a translation by Eurohoops.net, per Begley. "Because money -- if Kristaps performs at least on his normal level -- is gonna come. We are more focused on some other values and not just to quickly sign a new contract so we can collect the money. That's definitely not our goal, so we won't be feverishly counting minutes or counting points. You can't escape the reality, and the Knicks must also see that.”
Therefore, it’s not only about money for Porzingis. That could spell trouble for the Knicks, who have major questions in terms of their team culture at the moment.
"From their point of view, Kristaps is the focal point at the moment, so you cannot upset him much, or otherwise, at the end of the season, he will say, 'It's not so cool here.' The second question is: Who is the New York audience coming to watch now? To a large extent, it's Kristaps. So the organization has to take that into account," Janis said.
Kristaps’ brother made it clear that a lot can happen between now and next summer.
"First, it's a long time before signing a new deal," he noted. "Second, there are so many things that can happen in the season, so it's a waste of time thinking about it now… He needs to be healthy and play his game. And even that is conditional since we know that (Joel) Embiid was recently awarded a maximum contract for 30 games.”
Therefore, it’s obvious that Porzingis will not accept anything less than a max extension, which is reasonable, given his skill set and production so far in his career.
While Knicks fans will enjoy watching their young star put up giant numbers all season long, in the back of their minds they might be thinking about whether or not he will stay in the Big Apple in the future.