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2015 NBA Draft Prospect Week: Kristaps Porzingis

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As we continue previewing the 2015 NBA Draft, we take a look at Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis. Would Sam Hinkie draft another big man high in the draft who may not play right away?

Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Kristaps Porzingis has a lot of traits that Sam Hinkie seems to value.  The Latvian forward stands seven-feet tall, has a great wingspan, is extremely athletic for his position, on top of a ton of defensive potential, a versatile offensive game, and the likelihood of being a draft-and-stash. He seems to be a virtual lock to be drafted by the Sixers and make his debut in 2017.

All kidding aside, while part of the allure of fellow ACB player Mario Hezonja is his ability to fill a specific need that the Sixers are lacking, Porzingis might have even more upside.  He doesn't particularly fill a need, as he would be about the 18th big man the Sixers have used a lottery pick on during Sam Hinkie's short time in Philadephia, nor is he particularly ready to play any time soon. Even if he does come over right away, he just turned 19 a few days ago and has a lot of maturing to do physically before he's able to come close to competing in the NBA.

Not that Sam Hinkie has exactly shied away from delaying reward from the draft; Porzingis certainly fits the mold of an extremely high upside player Hinkie could be looking for.  And, while the Sixers have their share of big man prospects, Porzingis has the potential to be an intriguing fit playing with either Nerlens Noel or Joel Embiid, as his game is primarily perimeter based.

Potential Future Sixers

Porzingis' intrigue starts with his physical profile.  A true seven-footer with long arms, quick feet and  an explosive leaper, he possesses athletic talents that few his size have.  His physical profile also presents possibly his biggest question mark: he's rail thin and weak, and I'm not absolutely sure he has the frame to carry too much additional weight. Granted, trying to gauge that in a player who was 18 years old all of last year playing against grown men is sometimes difficult to project, but the concerns are warranted.

He plays primarily as a face-up power forward.  His jump shot is not yet consistent, as he made just 30.2% of his three pointers and just 62.5% of his free throws in ACB play.  His mechanics, for the most part, look good, although he does tend to occasionally have a hitch in his dip to start his shooting motion which sometimes appears to screw up his rhythm. His footwork and follow through look sound, and he has an exceptionally high release point that is going to be tough to guard against.  It wouldn't surprise me at all to see him develop into a very good three point shooter with NBA range down the line.

Sam Hinkie and Brett Brown presumably prefer that outside shooting ability in their power forward, but it also plays well to Porzingis' athletic strengths.  He's extremely quick for a guy of his size, with solid ball handling ability with either hand and long strides.  He'll be very tough to cover off the dribble, especially if defenders have to honor him out to the three point line.  He even shows some ability to hit tough shots off the dribble, although at this point he's struggled with consistency on what has admittedly been a very small sample size.

When Porzingis gets into the lane, he has good touch, but his lack of upper body strength really shines through because of his severe problem finishing through contact.  Until he matures physical, his explosive leaping ability more comes into play when he's off the ball, as he's a frequent lob target.

He has a fair amount of intrigue on the defensive side as well.  His length and quickness off his feet were on display on this end of the court, as he blocked 2.3 shots per 40 minutes in the ACB as an 18 year old, an incredible rate for somebody of his age.  He's also more than just a shot blocker, capable of guarding most stretch 4's, and he does a good job slowing down ball handlers and recovering on pick and rolls.

He struggles mightily to hold his ground defensively, a combination of both technique and body strength.  The same struggles show up on the defensive glass, where he's a below average rebounder, and even beyond his lack of strength he doesn't seem to possess much of an instinct for rebounding.

Adding strength and developing his base is, without question, my biggest concern with Porzingis going forward.  While there's a fair amount of projection for somebody this young, if he can gain the significant amount of strength he'll need to bang in the paint in the NBA, he has a unique set of physical tools and talent that could translate very well. But his strength is a big enough concern that it puts that in a little bit of doubt.

With the amount of talent he clearly has, his development over the next year will absolutely be something to keep an eye on.