Kristaps Porzingis and the New York Knicks will get an early lesson in why the 7’3″ skyscraper has no business playing power forward for long stretches at a time.
Like, a really early lesson.
As in, during their first game.
The Knicks tip off their season against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday, which means they’ll be squaring off with the recently traded Carmelo Anthony, who is now playing power forward, just like he should have been in New York. And this, in turn, means that Porzingis, the Knicks’ starting power forward, will be chasing around his own mentor.
New York can try and switch up coverages, and Oklahoma City might limit the time these two spend on each other by giving Anthony a quick hook so he can lead the second unit. But the plan, as of now, is for Porzingis to defend Anthony. As the 22-year-old said, per the New York Post‘s Marc Berman:
With Carmelo Anthony lining up at power forward in the Thunder’s small-ball lineup, Porzingis said he will defend his former teammate at the outset. At 7-foot-3, Porzingis has the height advantage, but the 6-8 Anthony has the craftiness.
“I think I will, I think I will,’’ Porzingis said after Tuesday’s practice in which the coaching staff started to focus on the team’s first opponent. “It’s going to be interesting. He’s been in the league for 13, 14 years. I think everybody knows what he’s doing, but nobody can stop him. It’s going to be a challenge for me. I’m going to do my best.’’
This is honestly stupid. The Knicks don’t really have another choice, because their rotation consists of roughly six jillion bigs, but this matchup with Anthony is exactly why Porzingis, a center, shouldn’t be playing power forward.
Yes, he’s not built to be a rebounding fulcrum or jostle with position for plodding towers and blah, blah, stinking blah. But power forwards are glorified wings now, like Anthony. Chasing them around, on the perimeter, having to close out, pulls Porzingis outside the paint, where he’s one of the league’s most efficient rim protectors.
The Knicks cannot really avoid this even if they wanted to. It would mean tethering a lot of money in frontcourt bigs to the bench. But Thursday’s matchup should serve as more of a long-term guide—further proof that Porzingis’ future lies at center.