When Kristaps Porzingis was a rookie with the New York Knicks during the 2015-’16 season, Kevin Durant described the lanky 7-3 center/forward as a “unicorn” because of the unique talents that he brought to the court.

Others have dubbed Porzingis as the second-coming of Dirk Nowitzki, who retired last month after spending his entire 21-year illustrious career with the Dallas Mavericks. Either way, the Mavs know when they acquired Porzingis from the Knicks in a blockbuster trade on Jan. 31, they were obtaining a special transitional player to pair with Luka Doncic — himself a transitional player – who should be able to turn this franchise’s basketball fortunes around.

“I didn’t think when we drafted Dirk he was Larry Bird and I don’t think (Porzingis) is Dirk,” said Donnie Nelson, the Mavs’ general manager and president of basketball operations. “(Porzingis is) going to put his own signature and have his own identity, and he’s going to transform a couple of positions, and I think that’s already happening in front of our very eyes with Luka.

“This is one of the most exciting times I think that I’ve ever been a part of in having potentially two young players of their caliber for our fans to watch and improve game by game. And obviously we’ve got the best in the business in (coach) Rick Carlisle that will make sure they maximize their potential.”

The fourth overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, Porzingis averaged 17.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, two blocked shots and shot 36 percent from 3-point range in 186 career games with the Knicks. He also was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team last season after he averaged 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks.

However, Porzingis wasn’t able to play in the NBA’s mid-season classic after he tore his left anterior cruciate ligament during a Feb. 8, 2018 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Porzingis, in fact, hasn’t played n a game since suffering that injury, but his rehab has been successful and he’s looking forward to blending his talents with those of Doncic.

“I get excited every time I think about it,” Porzingis said before this season ended. “I really think we can be something special.

“I think about basketball 24/7. I really see us being very special on the court and fun to watch, so I’m excited about it.”

Nowitzki is a player Porzingis said he looked up to when he was growing up. Meanwhile, guard Courtney Lee — one of the players the Mavs acquired in the trade for Porzingis – is adamant that Porzingis is one of those generational type players who will steadfastly put his stamp on the Mavs’ organization.

“He’s pretty much a bigger Dirk,” Lee said. “You’ve seen Dirk’s transformation from when he was kind of like KP – athletic and shooting and running around.

“You lose one guy like that and you bring another one in to follow in his footsteps, so I think he’s going to succeed in the system in Dallas.”

Another player who the Mavs acquired as part of the Porzingis trade, guard Tim Hardaway Jr., also thinks Porzingis is destined for stardom with the Mavs. When asked if Porzingis is a franchise-type player, Hardaway said: “I believe so and he believe so as well. Like (proprietor) Mark (Cuban) said, he plans on having him and Luka here for a very, very, very long time.”

The 23-year old Porzingis becomes a restricted free agent on July 1, and the plans are for the Mavs to sign him to a long-term contract. In the meantime, guard Trey Burke – he also was included in the Porzingis trade — believes the Latvian native will use his rare talents to have a major impact with the Mavs.

“I think his versatility at both ends of the court, plus his ability to create at 7-foot and being able to shoot the ball all over the court, all of those things play a big factor,” Burke said. “He’s young, he doesn’t have a lot of mileage on his body, so I think the future is bright for him in this organization.”

Share and comment

More Mavs News