It may look and feel archaic, but Kristaps Porzingis posting up could help the Dallas Mavericks’ offense find another dimension within the half-court.
Against the Portland Trail Blazers Monday night, he attacked the paint relentlessly. His first three offensive touches were post-ups or drives to the rim. And his first score of the game came from a hook shot three feet from the basket.
Downhill pressure on Portland’s defense created open perimeter opportunities for Porzingis. And his jump shot finally started to fall. He finished the game with 34 points. Dallas won, 132-117.
“KP lets the ball and game come to him,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said.
Previously, in his first game back from a toe injury that subsequently affected his hip, in a Christmas day matchup against the Utah Jazz, Porzingis took the ball to the basket with reckless abandon. He scored 16 of his 27 points in the second half.
Through both games, the low block was his office. Wreaking havoc around the rim was his meal ticket. It wasn’t something he’s done often since leaving New York, but with his 3-point jump-shot off-kilter (27 percent), he aims to do more in post-up situations going forward. The hope is that easy looks will aid him in generating open shot opportunities, regardless of where they appear on the floor.
“The coaching staff is encouraging me to do that [post up] and take advantage of that,” Porzingis said after the loss to Utah. “It’s not only to score but to make plays and draw those double-teams and give it to my open teammates for shots.”
Why Porzingis needs steady paint touches
Porzingis’ eagerness to post up is a breath of fresh air. An effective low-block offensive game opens up the floor for multi-level offensive decisions. When the left or the right block carries gravity, open perimeter jump shots appear naturally.
Dallas has struggled to make jump shots. Meaning, easy, open looks are a welcomed sign for the effectiveness of allowing Porizngis to establish a presence in the paint early in games.
It’s no secret that Dallas plays better when Porzingis gets going early. He said it himself after the Mavericks beat up on the Charlotte Hornets on Dec. 13. So, throw away — not entirely — what the analytics may say about Porzingis’ post-ups and pay attention to what your eyes are telling you.
In Monday night’s case, Porzingis’ quick start aided Josh Green and Dwight Powell, who both enjoyed their best game of the season thus far.
Green racked up 10 assists and found Porzingis under the basket for a few of them en route to a new career-high. Meanwhile, Powell benefitted from Porzingis’ gravity, often finding open avenues to slash to the rim and terrorize the restricted area.
“We have KP, one of the best bigs in the NBA,” Green said. “When you get the ball in the paint, good things happen.”
When playing Utah, Porzingis’ low-post aggression was one of the few reasons Dallas managed to stay connected to a team that boasts a far-better record.
Porzingis’ post-touches aren’t the end-all-be-all solution, but it does yield positive results — something Dallas’ offense hasn’t done for most of the season. And when Luka Doncic returns, Porzingis’ post-ups may also provide the opportunity for everyone to feel more involved in half-court offensive possessions.
“We have to make the right play every time,” Porzingis said. “We have to go from good shots to great shots. When we do that, everybody will know their role. Everybody will play hard and be happy.”
Porzingis and Doncic re-examined
To this point in the season, Doncic and Porzingis haven’t experienced extended minutes together for a lengthy amount of time. Each time one is healthy, the other gets hurt.
However, with Doncic’s exit from health and safety protocols looming, Dallas is presented with an opportunity that may change the direction of its season. When bringing Doncic back, Dallas ought to insert him into the system, instead of making him the system.
That’s not to say Doncic shouldn’t be the team leader in usage rate and shots. His greatness demands it be that way. But, with Porzingis scoring near the basket and drawing the occasional double-team, Doncic’s job could get a little bit easier.
Dallas needs to commit to scoring effectively around the rim and in the painted area. That starts with Porzingis, spreads to everyone else, and ends with him too.
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Feature image via Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports.