What do you get if you mix a 7ft. 3in. penguin and some greens? Kristaps Porzingis, fondly known as tingus pingus. Porzingis has signed for The Greens; Boston Celtic has arrived, or has it?
Last season was a standout for Porzingis, the lofty 7ft. 3 Latvian averaged 23.2 points per game, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks during his season with the Wizards. The past few seasons have been a roller coaster, to say the least.
Recent seasons have been a wild ride for him: Traded from The Knickerbockers (New York Knicks) to Dallas in 2019, joining forces with Luka Doncic as the Mavericks anticipated a second coming. While there were glimpses of potential, the partnership was ultimately short-lived, leading to his relocation to Washington at the 2022 trade deadline.
A Kristap Ball
Yet Porzingis remains optimistic, believing that he has grown physically and mentally in recent years and is entering the prime of his career in a promising new environment. Well, he’s not going to say otherwise, is he?
Now 28, Porzingis should be at the top of his game, and that’s undoubtedly why The Greens are expecting weighty returns. The deal to get Porzingis included trading out Marcus Smart. Smart won the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2022 and was Boston’s longest-serving player. Was this a smart move? Only time will tell.
Porzingis has a lot to live up to when replacing Smart, ‘The Cobra’ with a penguin represents a change for the Celtics in several ways. The locker room banter will be less ferocious and maybe less inspiring. More importantly, the deal restructures Boston’s roster, especially in defense.
The Greens often rely on having interchangeable and modifiable defenders across the court. Last season, head coach Joe Mezzulla leaned heavily on the smaller, quicker defense squad, and this strategy will not work for Porzingis.
At 7ft. 3, it’s impossible to be as agile as a 6ft. 3 player, and while Porzingis is a great defender, his strengths don’t lie in agility. Losing Smart, Boston’s best passer, means a tactical change away from quicker lineups to 3-point shooting, and that’s where Porzingis might be The Greens’ trump card.
What the numbers say for Porzingis
Crunching the numbers brings Porzingis in at 36% as a 3-point shooter on 5.1 per game with a shot rate of 38.5%, almost a career-best on 5.5 attempts in the previous season. With a reputation as one of the best post-up players, these stats give the Celtics a completely different look and style. It’s a gamble with the odds stacked in the right direction.
While you get the impression a change is a refresh the Celtics need, the year-on-year points increase shows this is a risky call. Mazzulla seems more interested in relieving the pressure on the other players, specifically Al Horford and Rob Williams, and with Porzingis’s ability to play out of position, the overall effect will give a different dimension to the offense.
Some might ask, “Why fix it if it’s not broken?”
Porzingis, the Gasket Player
It seems as far as Mazzulla is concerned, Porzingis is a gasket player, or so it seems, there to take the pressure off. Porzingis is on the roster to support Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Horford, and Williams. Why take a player who seems to be a backup rather than keep Smart?
Regarding the $33.83m question, however, the stats speak for themselves; Porzingis is one of ten NBA history players to average 18 points and 1.5 blocks per game with seven rebounds; at 7ft. 3, this puts our man in the top tier of players in the world. Porzingis isn’t just a gasket but an asset.
However, there’s a problem or a potential chink in Stretch Armstrong’s armor, his health; Porzingis managed 2,000 minutes on the court for the first time since he tore his ACL. In the life of a top player, this is a big deal. When Porzingis is at his best, he is unguardable; the problem is the run of bad luck has been going on since 2018.
What’s Porzingis got that others haven’t?
The answer to the question, ‘What’s Porzingis got that others haven’t?’ has to be unleashed potential. At 28 and with nine years of pro basketball experience, he has only played to his full potential for one season, which was last season. He is an unripe peach waiting to be picked. The answer is adaptability, but who will support this juicy player to get the most out of the team?
Will Porzingis be the sixth man or starting forward? If he’s a six, will Williams start with him, or will it be Horford? A question only Mazzulla can answer. Finding a way to use Porzingis to his best advantage will take time, but who has time to sleep in when you’re close to the top spot?
Porzingis was excellent at the Mavericks until injury put his career on hold, and rumors about a personality clash with Luka Doncic may or may not be true. Porzingis is a drop defender with a decent cat-and-mouse playbook who can make gains if he isn’t out on an island or forced to defend in mid-air, although, at 7ft. 3, the space above him is less than the breeze above other defenders.
Tingus pingus is a great call for The Greens, and he will make a difference to the entire dynamic. Our money is on the round, swishing the basket more times than ever before. Sure, Porzingis will be hacked and give out his fair share of facials, but he will prove his worth, and the Celtics will be delighted with the outcome.
While Porzingis is more of an ankle breaker than a buzz-beater, he is the man for the job. Expect great things from the penguin, and one thing is for sure: any game that Porzingis is in will be nail-biting stuff.