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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Jeff Hornacek: Kristaps Porzingis’ shot has ‘improved greatly’

Kristaps Porzingis

The legend continues to grow for Latvian unicorn Kristaps Porzingis.

New York Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek praised Porzingis’ improved shooting stroke as the team opened up training camp this week.

“I think he’s improved greatly from last year just watching him shoot,” Hornacek said of his hypertalented sophomore big man, per Ian Begley of ESPN. “He’s really feeling confident about the shot. His corner 3s seem like they’re automatic. The one 3 that he made and the other 3 that he missed that went in and out [in Thursday’s scrimmage], they both were from about 4-5 feet from behind the line. So he’s got the range.”

Porzingis, 21, is coming off an earth-splitting rookie season in which he averaged 14.3 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game, and 1.9 blocks per game. He complemented those surface stats with 42.1 percent shooting from the field and 1.1 threes per game at a 33.3 percent conversion rate. While that kind of efficiency could still use some improvement, those are excellent numbers for a 7-foot-3, jump shot-oriented, first-year player.

The All-Rookie First Teamer also found particular success from the top of the arc last year with 73 of his 81 made threes coming from above the break.

“I think that’s a high-percentage shot for me,” Porzingis said of the above-the-break three. “Last year, Phil Jackson, he told me that he likes that shot. I wasn’t so sure about it at first. It was early in the offense. I didn’t know if it was the best shot. But once we saw the percentages, he said it’s a pretty good look if I get that. The bigs a lot of times, they’re giving me that space, then just take that shot. Once he said that I have his confidence in me, and it was just, ‘Let it go.’ I’ll probably do the same thing this year.”

That kind of confidence, both from up top and from the corners, will be of the utmost importance as Porzingis looks to continue the climb in his sophomore season towards his rightful throne as an elite stretch five. For what it’s worth, comparisons are often drawn between Porzingis and Dallas Mavericks great Dirk Nowitzki, perhaps the sweetest shooting seven-footer of all-time. For his part, Nowitzki shot just 40.5 percent from the field and 20.6 percent from deep as a rookie but improved those splits to 46.1 percent and 37.9 percent respectively by his second year. Porzingis was already ahead of that development curve as a rookie (walls notwithstanding) and will hope to follow a similar trajectory of improvement shooting the basketball in 2016-17.

*Stats courtesy of NBA.com*

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