With Kristaps Porzingis set to return to the Celtics lineup today, I decided to look at his off-ball movement and how he’s creating space for himself and his teammates.
When Porzingis was traded to Boston, people knew he was a three-level scorer, a decent defender, and would give Boston that top-tier “third option.”
However, Porzingis has surprised me with his off-ball movement and decision-making. Whether it’s a pick-and-pop, or a fade to the corner to open up the lane, Porzingis has been a great spacer and scorer for this team.
Against the Bucks, as soon as Porzingis saw Brook Lopez turn his head to the driving Jaylen Brown, KP sprinted towards the rim and was rewarded with a dunk. (The pass by Brown was exceptional as he completely faked out Giannis Antetokounmpo.)
Similarly against Minnesota, Porzingis didn’t hesitate once his man leaves him in the corner and his cut to the rim makes Jrue Holiday’s decision easier knowing he doesn’t have to try and shoot it over Rudy Gobert.
Against Memphis, Porzingis again found himself in the corner. The Grizzlies went to double team Jayson Tatum, which triggered Holiday to make the first cut along the baseline. Jrue’s cut made Jaren Jackson Jr., commit to him which left a perfect opening for Porzingis to attack.
It’s not just Porzingis’ cutting ability that creates shots for himself, but it’s knowing who’s guarding him. In this next clip, Brook Lopez drops into the paint to respect Brown’s driving ability. Porzingis realizes this and stays behind the three-point line and gets the shot off before Lopez can contest.
Similarly to the last clip, Porzingis once again recognized the overcommitment from Mitchell Robinson and just stayed at the top of the key for an open three.
Even when Kristaps doesn’t get the ball on the roll, his understanding of where to position himself makes the driving lane open for guys like Tatum and Brown. He positions himself at the short baseline or “dunker’s spot.” He’s in the perfect position to either get the offensive rebound or the potential alley-oop if his defender commits to the ball handler.
Without Porzingis, Boston couldn’t field a double big lineup where teams had to respect the three-point line. When the Celtics had both Al Horford and Porzingis on the court, their spacing allowed the guards to drive the ball and then kick it out to an open shooter.
Just having Porzingis’ range back will be beneficial for Boston. Both he and Horford can shoot, but the Latvian can spot up from anywhere in the halfcourt forcing the opposing bigs to be outside of the paint.
With Porzingis slated to come back against the New York Knicks, his spacing and IQ will give Boston back the missing piece they needed over the last few games.