After a promising start to the season, the New York Knicks no longer look like one of the most refreshing things in the NBA. The team’s struggles have a lot to do with Tim Hardaway missing the last 16 games, but alongside that absence, there’s Kristaps Porzingis looking less and less impressive.
Porzingis, into his third season in the NBA, has run into a wall recently. He hasn’t been playing badly – he’s still the Knicks best player, by miles, and this is his team without any Carmelo Anthony’s getting in the way. But the Knicks have lost 6 of their last 8, falling to 18-19 and to 9th in the East, and Porzingis’ drop off on defense and in his shooting is one of the main reasons.
Through his first 24 games this season, carrying us into mid December, Porzingis averaged 25.5 points while shooting 46.5% from the field, 39.5% from beyond the arc and 84.8% from the line. All this is in just under 32 minutes per game.
However, in the last 6 games, with the Knicks winning just one of them, Porzingis has started to miss shots; a lot of them. He is averaging 22.5 points a night since December 22, but he’s playing almost 36 minutes a night while shooting an awful 38.9% from the field, 28% from beyond the arc and even his free throw shooting has been suffering, falling to 78.9%. Not awful, but the Knicks need a lot more from him, especially as he takes too much on himself with 21 field goal attempts per game during this bad stretch.
The bad news for the Knicks is that Hardaway might be quite a while before he gets back. He has already missed 16 games, and it’s going to be another week before they re-evaluate his stress injury (Fracture?) on this left leg. This puts a lot of pressure on Porzingis, who has mentioned that he’s facing a lot more double teams than before. The inconsistency of Lance Stephenson and Courtney Lee, while Michael Beasley does his best to show how much talent he has, isn’t getting the Knicks anywhere.
Before this season began, many expected Porzingis to reign supreme, but for the team to look from the outside on the playoff race. But Hardaway Jr. played better than expected, and the Knicks found themselves streaking and having fun for the first time in years. However, things have gotten complicated. Teams below the Knicks, like the Chicago Bulls, have stopped playing terribly, and there’s a certain threshold of skill the Knicks can’t get past in order to be considered true contenders in the East.
A solution? Getting Hardaway back on the court will probably be the best thing, but for now, it’ll take some creative thinking from Jeff Hornacek with the available players he has to take the load of Porzingis and make this team look a bit more effortless on offense, before their playoff hopes get smashed to pieces.