NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Kristaps Porzingis can be summed up in a word: polarizing.
Knicks fans didn’t try to hide their disgust when New York took the 19-year-old mystery man from Latvia with the fourth overall pick Thursday night. But many analysts are giving the franchise high marks for taking a chance on Porzingis, saying he could end up being the best player to come out of the 2015 NBA Draft.
It’ll take time — perhaps years — before we can call the selection a home run or an air ball. Here’s what we know right know about the European forward:
1. He really, really wanted to join the Knicks: The day before the draft, Porzingis said it was his “dream” to play for New York. “It’s a basketball city. It definitely is a big spotlight. I think I can take it. I would love to be a part of, a leader of that rebuilding team.”
2. He’s fluent in three languages: Porzingis says he learned English as a youth in Latvia, which should help his transition to the NBA. He picked up Spanish when he was recruited to play for Sevilla in the country’s ACB League. “I knew English pretty well for my age, but my teammates didn’t speak English, so I had to learn Spanish. So the first half of my first season was really tough for me because I couldn’t communicate,” he told Uproxx.com. “I learned Spanish and started speaking it in about six months. At first, the guys were laughing at me because I had this weird Latvian accent speaking Spanish. But after that, everybody was saying I was pretty good.”
3. He’s drawing comparisons to Pau Gasol: Some see a big upside to Porzingis, saying he could be the next Gasol. That’s good company, considering the Bulls’ 7-footer has a Rookie of the Year award, five All-Star appearances and two titles with the Lakers under his belt. And Gasol also came from the Spanish League. “Pau was 227 (pounds) when he came into the league, something like that,” Knicks president Phil Jackson said Thursday. “This young man (Porzingis) has better range, perhaps, than Pau does. A natural 3-point shooter.” Then again, he could be another European bust.
4. His height is up for debate: Though everyone agrees that Porzingis should add to his 220-pound frame, there’s no consensus on his height — yet. The Associated Press has him at 6-foot-11. ESPN.com lists him at 7-foot-2. Other sites have him somewhere in between. “I don’t think there is any information on the internet that is right about my height or weight, so I think teams are going to be surprised,” Porzingis told Uproxx ahead of the draft. “I think I will keep that a secret.”
5. He withdrew from last year’s draft: Porzingis was the league’s international man of mystery once before. He had a chance to be a mid-first-round selection after announcing his intentions to enter the NBA as an 18-year-old, but pulled his name from consideration 11 days before the 2014 draft. He went on to average 10.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and one block for Cajasol Seville in 2014-15.