New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis saw his 2018 campaign come to a disappointing end after tearing his ACL last week. The forward/center is now set to have surgery on Tuesday, which will officially end his season.
According to ESPN, Porzingis will be out for 10 months. This includes both the recovery from the surgery along with rehabilitation afterward.
The Latvian tore his left ACL last Tuesday in a game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Porzingis went up for a dunk and came down awkwardly.
“He’s of course really sad because he wanted to be out there so bad with us,” said teammate Enes Kanter. “But I think at the same time he’s staying really positive. Like, ‘Man I just want to get my surgery done early so I can just start getting my rehab and I can come back and play.’ I think he’s going to come back even stronger because he’s really hungry.”
Let’s continue discussing how devastating this injury is for Porzingis along with how it translates into another lost season for the Knicks.
Porzingis’ First All-Star Campaign Ends Badly
The fact that Kristaps Porzingis hurt himself this year is definitely saddening for a guy who’s come into his own. The 7’3″ big man is averaging 22.7 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.4 blocks, and shooting 39.5% from the three-point line.
Given these numbers, it’s no surprise why Porzingis earned his first All-Star nod in three seasons. And he was coming along nicely as the new focal point of New York’s offense.
But now Porzingis is forced to have his stellar year cut shot due to a serious injury. And the ACL tear isn’t just impacting this season, but will also have an effect in the 2018-19 campaign too.
First off, he won’t have the summer to continue working on his game and improving. Instead, Porzingis will be sidelined until next December according to the current time line.
This puts Porzingis on the court over 20 games into the next season. While this still gives him plenty of time to get into the swing of things, the Knicks will have difficulty staying competitive without him.
Is there Any Good to Come Out of Porzingis’ Injury?
Considering that Porzingis won’t take the court for the final 29 games, we can almost guarantee that the Knicks will miss the postseason. The only question now is if they’ll do poorly enough to continue falling in the East standings and adding more ping-pong balls for the lottery.
Ideally, New York will land a top 5-10 pick that they can pair with Porzingis and the rest of the young core. Assuming that Porzingis had continued playing, this wouldn’t be possible because New York might win some more games and actually compete for a playoff spot.
Right now, the team is four games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks, who have the worst record in the league at 17-39. The Dallas Mavericks have the second-worst record at 17-38.
What’s Left for the Knicks with Porizingis Out?
As explained above, it’s highly unlikely that New York will get anywhere near the playoffs without their star player. Even if Porzingis were playing, it’s still unlikely that they’d bridge the 6-game gap between themselves and the Philadelphia 76ers (currently 8th in East).
Right now, the best thing that head coach Jeff Hornacek and the team can do is build for the future. They have several other young players besides Porzingis who could help form a valuable team next season and beyond.
10 of the 15 players on the active roster are 25 or younger. This includes Tim Hardaway Jr (25), Trey Burke (25), Enes Kanter (25), and Frank Ntilikina (19).
Kanter is definitely having a productive season, with 14.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, and shooting over 60% from the field. Hardaway isn’t shooting the ball very well (40.5%), but he is averaging a career-high in points (16.4).
Burke, who recently signed with the team, is off to a hot start, averaging 8.5 PPG and shooting nearly 55% in just 14 minutes per game. Ntilikina, who was the seventh-overall pick in last year’s draft, is having rookie struggles with 35.2% shooting. But at 19 years old, he has plenty of time to develop.
The team also recently traded for point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who was previously on the Denver Nuggets. New York sent Doug McDermott to the Mavericks and the L.A. Clippers’ 2020 second-round pick to the Denver Nuggets in a three-team swap.
It’s unclear exactly how Mudiay fits into the Knicks’ future plans, especially since they already have Burke and Ntilikina at the same position. But this gives New York three former top-10 picks that’ll be battling for minutes at lead guard.
Considering that the team isn’t going anywhere in 2018, they have plenty of minutes to give younger players in hopes of forming a successful foundation. And maybe when Porzingis returns to the court next season, the team will be able to compete for the playoffs.