Kristaps Porziņģis (born August 2, 1995) is a Latvian professional basketball player for the New York Knicks of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He was selected by the Knicks with the fourth overall pick of the 2015 NBA draft. While being brought up in Liepāja, Latvia, Porziņģis started out his career with youth teams in his hometown before trying out and making the Baloncesto Sevilla youth squads. Following multiple years with the junior teams of Sevilla and representing them in Nike International Junior Tournaments, he was promoted to the senior squad. Porziņģis competed with the Latvia youth national team at the 2013 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship.
On April 28, 2014, Porziņģis declared himself eligible for the 2014 NBA draft. Before and after he made the decision, he drew interest from National Basketball Association (NBA) teams such as the Orlando Magic, who held the 12th overall pick, and traveled to Europe to scout him. The Oklahoma City Thunder reportedly were certainly going to select him with the 21st pick in the case that he remained. Porziņģis was considered an unfinished product and a top-15 draft pick. According to DraftExpress.com, he was the fourth-youngest prospect in their top-100 rankings. Shortly before the day of the draft, however, he withdrew his name. Porziņģis’s agent Andy Miller released the information to ESPN, saying that his client did not feel prepared to become a part of the NBA and wanted to develop his skills until the 2015 draft. One of the league’s general managers commented on him, “He’s very talented. He wasn’t ready, but we would’ve seriously considered drafting him anyway. If he continues to develop his game, get more minutes and his body develops, I think he could be a top-five pick in 2015. He has that kind of talent.”
On April 16, 2015, Porziņģis entered the 2015 NBA draft, according to a report from agent Andy Miller. After gaining a season more of experience, he became known as a lottery pick and a potential top-5 selection. He drew interest from teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers, who had the No. 2 pick and had several personnel that had seen Porziņģis play in Spain. He was compared with players such as Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki, but also Darko Miličić, a former lottery selection widely considered a draft bust. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports wrote, “Porziņģis has an innate awareness about the way the American public sees a young, long European teenager. He comes to the NBA with the full understanding that popular basketball culture declares him guilty until proven innocent of the basketball crimes of Darko Miličić and Nikoloz Tskitishvili and Andrea Bargnani. He’s considered a stiff, a bust, a blown lottery pick until he doesn’t become one…”
On June 25, 2015, Porziņģis was selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft by the New York Knicks. He was booed by the New York crowd upon being drafted, but vowed to change the fans’ opinions on him from negative to positive. On the same night, the New York Knicks traded for Porziņģis’ teammate from Sevilla, Guillermo Hernangómez, who was originally drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers as a 35th overall pick. Porziņģis became the highest drafted Latvian and Baltic player in NBA history.
On July 30, 2015, Porziņģis signed his rookie-scale contract with the Knicks. He made his debut for the Knicks in the team’s season opener against the Milwaukee Bucks on October 28, recording 16 points and 5 rebounds in a 122–97 win. On November 2, he recorded his first career double-double with 13 points and 14 rebounds in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs. On November 21, he had a season-best game with 24 points, 14 rebounds and 7 blocks in a 107–102 win over the Houston Rockets. Over his first 18 games, he ranked third among all rookies in scoring (13.7 ppg) and was second in rebounding (9.3 rpg) and blocked shots (1.89 bpg) for October and November. He subsequently earned Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honors for games played in October and November. On December 7, in a loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Porziņģis led a fourth-quarter charge and finished with a game-high 28 points, facing off against fellow European big man Dirk Nowitzki.
On January 4, 2016, he was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for December. Porziņģis missed his first game of the season on January 28 after being diagnosed with an upper respiratory illness. On February 2, he was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for January. From the months of October to January, he and Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns (Western Conference) both won all three monthly honors for the season.
On November 4, 2016, Porziņģis scored a season-high 27 points in a 117–104 win over the Chicago Bulls. He topped that mark on November 16 with a career-high 35 points in a 105–102 win over the Detroit Pistons. On December 11, he recorded 26 points, 12 rebounds and a career high-tying seven blocks in a 118–112 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. On January 19, 2017, he came off the bench for the first time in his NBA career after returning from a four-game absence due to a sore left Achilles tendon. He subsequently scored 15 points in a 113–110 loss to the Washington Wizards. Over the course of the 2015–16 season, he demonstrated his dominant offensive rebounding ability and showed signs of being a proficient scorer, as he became the first rookie in NBA history to record 1000+ points, 500+ rebounds, 75+ three-pointers and 100+ blocks
During the 2017 All-Star Weekend, Porziņģis played for Team World in the Rising Stars Challenge and won the Taco Bell Skills Challenge.
Career highlights and awards
NBA All-Rookie First Team (2016)
NBA Skills Challenge champion (2017)
EuroCup Rising Star (2015)
2× ACB All-Young Players Team (2014, 2015)