Though the Knicks have struggled so far this season, the offensive production of Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose has been encouraging. The same can't be said about Kristaps Porzingis, however.
Against the Pistons, Porzingis (7-of-18) started off hot but fizzled out as the game went on. When it came down to crunch time, he was benched in favor of Lance Thomas. He followed that up with a scoreless (0-for-4) effort against the Rockets on Wednesday.
Unfortunately, there was no bounceback performance. After such an impressive rookie season, Porzingis seems to be hitting the wall rather early in this new campaign, unable to find himself thus far.
Dating back to the preseason, Porzingis has continued to develop a refreshing level of chemistry with Brandon Jennings. When they take the floor together, things often go right. But when the 21-year-old shares the court with an otherwise excelling Anthony and Rose, he quickly gets lost in the offense. There's a key weapon in the Knicks' offensive arsenal they haven't figured out how to fully utilize yet.
"We got to do a better job, getting him the ball in a mismatch,'' head coach Jeff Hornacek said following Wednesday nght's loss, according to the NY Post. "If he's against a smaller guy, we're not necessarily looking for him. We have to find that mismatch.''
Playing with Rose figures to make things easier for Porzingis, much like playing with Jennings does. There has to be better communication. Rose not only has to aggressively look for him, but guide him around the court. It's early, but Porzingis has spent too much time waiting for the ball instead of moving around without it.
Porzingis is supposed to form a formidable defensive duo in the front court with Joakim Noah but efforts on defense have been lacking as well. Forced to chase Ryan Anderson around on the perimeter more than he's used to, Porzingis was exposed on Wednesday.
Many NBA players excel by letting their positive play on one end of the floor spark even better play on the other. It has to be demoralizing for Porzingis not to have found his scoring flow thus far. Perhaps such frustration is trickling down and affecting his mentality and focus on the defensive end.
In any event, Hornacek is right. The Knicks have to find a way to get Porzingis going. The sophomore big man is a young kid. He's shown tremendous maturity and pose to this point, but he might be letting his struggles get in his head.
It's up to Anthony and Co. to encourage Porzingis, keep him level-headed, and get him more involved in the flow of the offense. An elevated effort on defense could subsequently follow.
That's what the Knicks have to be hoping for. It's vital to their success, and they are clearly struggling without him playing to his full potential.