Kristaps Porzingis is a flashy, bright yellow Maserati, and the Celtics are in the process of figuring out how to maximize all of his unique features.
It’s early, but so far, the ride is smooooooth.
Porzingis is one of those players you admire from afar – and give an approving nod to when you see him twice a year – but watching him on a nightly basis helps you appreciate just how special he truly is.
His versatility is remarkable, and the trade feels like even more of a no-brainer than it did when it happened.
Porzingis scored 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting and added eight rebounds, two blocks and a steal in Boston’s 123-110 preseason win over the Knicks on Tuesday at TD Garden. He finished 4 for 8 from 3-point range, played beautifully in tandem with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Jrue Holiday, and Payton Pritchard, and made the game look easy.
Sure, it was against the Knicks’ reserves, but it still offered a glimpse into just how perfect this fit could be.
“The ball will seem to find KP a lot, just because of his skill set and what he’s able to do, and create 2-on-1s and closeouts,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “Getting him in those side pick-and-roll situations, with those angles, is kind of the trigger for our offense right now.”
Jayson Tatum on Kristaps Porzingis: “He obviously a very skilled player. He makes the game easier for myself and everybody else.”— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 18, 2023
That’s quite a statement. Obviously, the offense also runs through Tatum and Brown, but for Mazzulla to mention Porzingis in that same context shows how much the staff trusts him already.
Figuring out how to unlock him fully and build on his career year last season is as important a task as any for this group. The Celtics needed a player who could take attention away from Tatum and Brown and create his own shot as a third option. It appears they’ve found just the guy.
“It felt good, honestly,” Porzingis said. “It’s just easy to play with those guys. I keep repeating myself, but they draw so much attention that I get wide-open 3’s, wide-open looks. They just find me, and I shoot those shots. It’s really simple.”
On the first play of the night, Tatum found Holiday on the baseline, and Holiday zipped it over to Porzingis in the corner. Porzingis jab-stepped, elevated and shot over rangy 7-footer Mitchell Robinson with ease.
Kristaps Porzingis has knocked down a 3-pointer on the 1st possession of both preseason games at TD Garden. pic.twitter.com/t4yxuAUH3f— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) October 17, 2023
Later in the quarter, Porzingis set Tatum a screen, rolled, corralled the pass and buried a mid-range jumper.
The threat is there in the pick and pop to the 3-point line, pick and roll to the mid-range and pick and roll to the rim. Oh, and Tatum’s there if you double Porzingis. Shooters are open if you double them both. It’s a true nightmare for defenses.
“He’s a very skilled player,” Tatum said. “He makes the game easier for myself and everybody else. His versatility, ability to stretch the floor and shoot.”
Tatum ➡️ Kristaps for an easy bucket pic.twitter.com/mvqJaLsF4l— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) October 18, 2023
Brown found him on a similar player later in the game. Payton Pritchard hit him with an alley-oop, then again on a pick and pop moments later.
The scariest part is that their chemistry is already this terrific in the preseason. Imagine how lethal it will be in April, May, and hopefully June. Porzingis fits in perfectly with Tatum and Brown, perfectly with Mazzulla’s spacing philosophies and perfectly with the Celtics’ culture.
Pritchard throws it up for Porzingis and the Boston crowd is loving it!— NBA (@NBA) October 18, 2023
Celtics and Knicks 4Q live on NBA TV pic.twitter.com/kRnR9TyNeh
Brad Stevens knows what he’s doing, folks. It’s only October, but I truly believe Porzingis might be the piece that puts the Celtics over the top.
“We’re just getting started,” Porzingis said. “It’s a very, very talented group.”