Kevin Durant Speaks on Kristaps Porzingis' Skill Set, Rookie Season with Knicks

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIJanuary 25, 2016

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) reacts in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in New York. Durant had 32 points but the Nets upset the Thunder 116-106. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Unlike the fans who booed the New York Knicks' selection of Kristaps Porzingis at No. 4 overall in the 2015 NBA draft, Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant was immediately sold on the pick.

Durant spoke about Porzingis on Monday ahead of their teams' Tuesday showdown at Madison Square Garden, per the Washington Post's Tim Bontemps:

When they made the pick, I texted [Knicks head coach and former Thunder teammate Derek Fisher] immediately and I said I liked the pick. A lot of people were down on him, but he can play. I've seen it, you've seen it ... he's a skilled guy.

I think we've gotten away from enjoying the skilled players in this league. We've got so many guys that are athletic, and big and strong, but he's a skilled player. He can shoot, he can make the right plays, he can defend, he's a 7-footer that can shoot all the way out to the three-point line. That's rare. And block shots ... that's, like, a unicorn in this league. You've got to respect what he's doing. This being New York City, everything is under a microscope, but he's progressing at a high rate pretty fast, and he's gonna be a force.

Comparing someone to a mythological animal is quite the compliment, but it seems appropriate in light of the unique abilities Porzingis brings to the hardwood.

At just 20 years old, Porzingis is only beginning to come into his own in the NBA. Although he's shooting just 42.6 percent from the floor and 33.8 percent from three-point range, his proficiency figures to improve markedly over the course of his career. 

For some perspective on those numbers, consider Durant shot 43 percent overall and 28.8 percent from deep as a rookie. That's not to say Porzingis will become as lethal a shooter as Durant but rather how much room there is for growth.

Porzingis is averaging 14.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and two blocks per contest. The 7'3" big man has a high motor, though he is still acclimating to the style of play in the Association, not to mention a new country and expectations that he could be the Knicks' savior.

The combination of Carmelo Anthony and Porzingis gives New York two promising players to build around, with the latter having the potential to join 'Melo as an annual All-Star.

By most accounts, Porzingis has already exceeded expectations during the 2015-16 campaign. If he continues to develop at the surprising rate he has to date, the Latvian sensation could well prove to be the best player from the 2015 draft.