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The unicorn: what Kristaps Porzingis brings to the Celtics

Will Kristaps Porzingis finally be the piece to push the Celtics over the top?

NBA: Boston Celtics at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Alright. Deep breath, everyone.

Yes, Marcus Smart is a Grizzly.

No, not everyone is happy about it.

Sports can be your best friend one second and your worst enemy the next. He meant a lot to this fanbase and this franchise and it’s objectively sad to see such a beloved player get traded away.

However, if there is a slice of good news buried inside the sadness, it’s that the Celtics got back a really, really good basketball player who, on paper, makes them better.

I’ll preface this by saying it’s hard to know the extent of the Kristaps Porzingis trade until the Celtics execute the rest of their plan. They have plenty of assets still to use, so I imagine another move is coming down the line.

For now, let’s focus on what the Celtics are getting with Kristaps and how it could lead to the Jays developing into even better players.

Washington Wizards v Boston Celtics Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images

What Even Is Kristaps?

For fans of 2K out there, it’s easy to start with broad archetypes of players and then get more specific as you go. Kristaps is one of the hardest dudes to do that for — his skill set is so diverse and unique, but I would say he is, broadly, a 3-Level-Scoring Rim Protector. For Celtic fans who haven’t really watched Kristaps the past few seasons, he has simplified his game vs. the flashy, SportsCenter highlight days of the New York Knicks and become an absolute matchup nightmare for just about every player in the NBA on both ends of the floor.

Offensively, he’s coming off a career-best season with Washington. Career-highs in PPG (23.2), FG% (49.8%), VORP (3.4), and Win Shares (7.7), he’s starting to put up numbers you’d expect of someone of his talent level entering his prime at 27 years old. He has an elite post game and shoots 38% from behind the arc, 40% on catch-and-shoot 3s. Make no mistake: KP is one of the best players in the NBA right now.

Crazy part is, he was doing that for one of the worst teams in the NBA. It might be copium or homerism, but I wonder what his game is going to look like playing next to Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Both are easily the best players he’ll have ever played next to in the NBA; I wonder if there is even another level for KP to go to.

Defensively, he’s become one of the best bigs in the world. He ranks top-5 in Points Allowed per Pick-And-Roll, has developed into an elite drop defender, and consistently averages close to 2 blocks a game. At the bare minimum, he will give you quality center defense against just about anyone in the league. How he fares in big spots against the likes of Bam Adebayo, Nikola Jokic, and Joel Embiid remains to be seen, but regular season-wise, the production and film is there.

How Does He Fit on the Celtics?

Let’s start offensively because looking around the NBA history books, there just aren’t any examples of the combination we are about to see. Porzingis’ individual offensive games fills a lot of gaps in the Celtics offense. He doesn’t have many duplicative skills with other players on the roster. No one has the array of post-scoring options that he has. It will definitely be a go-to option down the stretch for the team when the Jays are getting bogged down. He can also shoot 3s off the dribble, a legitimately hilarious and terrifying thing to watch considering he is 7’3”. Again, individually, he’s a nightmare, but when it truly gets special is when you look at it through the lens of the Jays.

Think of what the two-man game of Jayson Tatum and Kristaps could be. It’s two elite players above 6’9” that can score from anywhere on the court and are both excellent in pick-and-roll offenses. The possibilities are truly endless. This duo should be able to almost score at will against most NBA defenses.

Then, consider it from a Jaylen Brown perspective. Sure, you can sit on his left hand, but it’s a little harder to do with a 7’3” Kristaps Porzingis is flying down the lane next to him. It should open up everything for the Jays in a way I’m not sure they’ve experienced yet in their careers. Rob Williams and Al Horford have always been effective PnR options, but KP is on a whole other level entirely. If they can execute the offense at a high level, both JB/KP and JT/KP should rank in the upper echelon of PnR duos in the NBA.

Defensively, the Celtics finally have someone who can spell Robert Williams and Al Horford and not get completely toasted at the rim! They now have three elite defensive bigs who can cause havoc regardless of how is on the floor. I don’t think we will see a ton of lineups with KP/Rob. They might crossover for 5-7 minutes a night, but I imagine we’ll see a lot of Horford/KP or Horford/Rob or KP or Rob by themselves. Tatum can always slide to the 4 to play next to either as well to make lineups work.

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