Notable NBA writer for The Ringer’s Michael Pina thinks Kristaps Porzingis’s importance to the Boston Celtics is “more essential than originally expected.”
“Porzingis poses some fascinating and perhaps more meaningful basketball questions,” Pina prefaced before saying, “Where and how often will he get his touches? Who does he fit best next to? Boston’s success hinges on these answers.”
Most fans would suggest the Celtics’ championship window hinges on the shoulders of Jayson Tatum. Others might point to Jaylen Brown turning around recent playoff shortcomings as pivotal to Boston’s equation. Yet, the C’s chances at Banner 18 seem directly correlated with the success and health of the seven-foot-three Latvian.
Why does Kristaps Porzingis shatter the Boston Celtics ceiling?
For the last few seasons, under both Ime Udoka and Joe Mazzulla, the Boston Celtics offense was plagued by the same thing: predictability. In late-game situations, the ball would stop moving. As good as Brown can be, he habitually defaults to his worst qualities in crunch time. The overdribbling and ball-stopping have become as much of a staple of Celtics games as Mike Gorman.
Tatum is the only player on the roster who can consistently generate consistent looks for himself and others in the clutch but is far from perfect. Everyone reading this can imagine Tatum hurling a step back three as the shot clock expires and hearing the Garden crowd groan. Many tend to miss the defensive attention he draws, which is a direct result of opposing teams selling out on Brown.
When those guys got isolation-heavy, Marcus Smart felt like the only other player who would see the ball. Yet, both the Boston faithful and Smart consistently thought he was better than he truly was at that end of the floor. Even with the depth in recent seasons, it was always hard to believe that the Celtics could win a title with Smart as the third most significant offensive piece.
Enter Porzingis. The Celtics’ prize off-season acquisition gives Boston an actual elite third banana not seen since the “Big Three” era. With his size, his ability to stretch the floor at an elite level and be effective in the low post is one of the most desired skill sets in the NBA. His ability to efficiently create his shot has grown dramatically since his time in New York, and he’s a matchup nightmare for other bigs.
Defensively, he has monster length and can strike fear into opposing drivers. Despite his injury history, his mobility has not deteriorated. His individual defense is good, not great, but he’s never been around so many high-level defenders as he is in Boston. With White and Holiday on the perimeter and Tatum ideally matching up with top opposing wings, it allows Porzingis to be an elite weapon protecting the rim.
Look at other contenders third best player:
- Denver Nuggets – Michael Porter Jr.
- Phoenix Suns – Bradley Beal
- Milwaukee Bucks – Khris Middleton
- Los Angeles Lakers – Austin Reaves
- Miami Heat – Tyler Herro
None of those guys have such a balanced impact on both sides of the court as Porzingis. That’s why many sportsbooks and top-level league analysts believe the Boston Celtics are the favorite to win the Larry O’Brien trophy. The 77th season of the NBA hinges on the shoulders of No. 8 because if he is healthy for a deep playoff run, it feels like this title is Boston’s to lose.