The future of Kristaps Porzinigs in a Dallas Mavericks uniform has been unknown since the end of the Mavericks’ run in the NBA Playoffs.
However, on Thursday morning, during the introductory press conference for new general manager Nico Harrison and new head coach Jason Kidd, the Mavericks brain trust took ample time defending the former NBA All-Star.
“I think he [Porzingis] has been unfairly maligned,” team owner Mark Cuban said. “He’s put team first, and he put his own personal statistics [second] -knowing that people were going to give him a hard time – because he just wants to win.
“This is going to be the first season, with the Dallas Mavericks, where he’s coming in healthy. And he’s able to work on things other than just rehabbing to get his body ready, something he has not been able to do.”
A point Cuban made sure to highlight was Porzingis’ performance in the playoffs. In the 2020-21 postseason, Porzingis averaged 13.1 points per game and five rebounds. He was often delegated to standing on the perimeter — spacing the floor for Luka Doncic.
“During the playoffs, he did everything he was asked to do,” Cuban said.
When looking at the big picture, Cuban’s assessment is correct. Porzingis has struggled with his health every NBA offseason since he initially tore his ACL in 2018. And in the playoffs, he willingly took a backseat role to Doncic because it gave the Mavericks the best shot at winning.
Dallas initially traded for Porzingis in February of 2019. He wasn’t healthy enough to play just yet. And he spent the summer of 2019 in recovery from the ACL injury. His Mavericks debut came in October of 2019.
He and Doncic appeared to be in the midst of finding a special synergy on the court during the NBA Bubble when he injured his knee again. That injury cost him the abbreviated 2020 NBA offseason. Amidst the pandemic and COVID-19 protocols, Porzingis managed to put together a 2020-21 season that saw him play in 43 of 72 possible games.
It wasn’t the year he nor the Mavericks hoped for, but it seems as though things have shifted for the seven-footer. Now, there is an excitement to see what the Porzingis and Doncic duo look like when they are both healthy and on the floor together for an extended period of time.
“We are excited about KP being healthy,” Kidd said. “He’s excited and he’s ready to work. I think we are going to see a different KP… This is a positive summer for him. He’s healthy. And I think he’s a perfect fit for Luka. He has a skill set that a lot of people don’t have in our league, and as a coach, I am very excited to work with him.”
The playoff disappointment for Porzingis can be linked to the system run under former head coach Rick Carlisle. With Kidd, there is a present eagerness to get the ball out of Doncic’s hands more so that the 22-year-old star doesn’t wear down over the course of an NBA season.
This means there are more shots for everyone to go around within the offense. And more shots mean more opportunities for Porzingis to live up to his max extension the Mavericks signed him to three years ago.
“When you look at the numbers, he [Doncic] has the ball a lot,” Kidd said. “As we continue through this process, I will throw him some questions to get his opinion on playing without the ball, not having to bring the ball up every time we start the play.”
Many were quick to write of Porzingis. And his play in the playoffs gave them every reason to do so. However, the confidence Dallas’ front office has in him is a positive sign.
Porzingis’ healthy offseason provides Dallas with continuity going forward. And that continuity is something Porzingis hasn’t had since his three seasons playing for the New York Knicks.
If it’s any perspective, Porzingis’ last healthy offseason led to a year that saw him average 22 points, six rebounds and 2.4 blocks. He was also named an NBA All-Star that year (2018).
Don’t give up on Porzingis just yet. With a healthy summer, he might just show the NBA world why he was worth five years $158 million in 2019.
“You can’t teach 7-foot-4. You can’t teach shooting. You can’t teach his ability to create shots, but now he’s going to have a chance to have some continuity,” Cuban said. “With what Kidd and Nico have planned. The ability of KP to work. I think he and Luka are going to be a lot better together and as a team.”
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Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.