Secondary Star: Kristaps Porzingis Holds Keys to Dallas Mavericks’ Success

Kristaps Porzingis

Getty Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks share excitement in first-round playoff series.

The Dallas Mavericks have the ability to make a deep playoff push this season, but it may come down to how far Kristaps Porzingis allows them to go. 

The 26-year-old has the talent to be a legitimate secondary star on a contending NBA team but can’t seem to stay healthy or rise to the occasion in the biggest moments. At 7-foot-3, Porzingis is a walking mismatch on both ends of the floor with his length and ability to space the floor. 

In the 2020 NBA playoffs, the Mavericks were extremely competitive with the Los Angeles Clippers until Porzingis was ruled out of the series with a knee injury. In a moment where Dallas needed him most, his knees once again presented issues. 

After spending the offseason recovering, Porzingis had an exceptional 2020-21 season, averaging 20.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game while shooting 37.6% from deep. 

A Second Straight Playoff Disappointment

Then came the 2021 NBA playoffs, where Porzingis was actually healthy for Dallas’ entire first-round series in a rematch against the Clippers. However, he lacked the aggressiveness to support his superstar teammate Luka Doncic in closing out the series. 

Up 2-0 over the Clippers heading back to Dallas for Games 3 and 4, Porzingis looked fairly lost on both ends of the floor. Things only got worse during Games 5 and 6, where he lacked the confidence to make the positive impact a player of his caliber should. Through those two games, Porzingis attempted just 13 total shots while scoring 15 points. 

Kristaps Porzingis

GettyKawhi Leonard of the LA Clippers dunks over Kristaps Porzingis of the Dallas Mavericks.

Additionally, against a Clippers team that lacked size, the 7-foot-3 big pulled down just 5.4 rebounds per game throughout the series as a whole. After having a ton of success from beyond the arc in the regular season, Porzingis converted on just 29.6% of his 3s in the recent playoffs. Even when he did take shots, they just weren’t falling.

In short, Porzingis’ track record in the playoffs to this point has become full of injuries and underwhelming performances. He’s shown the ability at times to take the Mavericks to the next level as a co-star with Doncic, but not when it has mattered most. 

A Reason for Optimism

Since his knee injury in 2018, Porzingis has played in just 100 regular season games. What’s declined the most as a result of the injury has been his defensive efficiency. If he’s able to get back to being a legitimate rim protector and impact player on defense, he’ll only help the Mavericks more. 

For the past few seasons, the Dallas offense has been historically good. The Mavs were first in offensive efficiency in 2019-20 (115.9 rating) and eighth last year (114.6). However, it’s been their poor defense (ranked 21st last season)  that has been their downfall in taking things to the next level. 

With that in mind, this is the first offseason in quite some time that Porzingis has been healthy and able to develop his game. While there was speculation that he could be traded this offseason, all signs are pointing to the Mavericks giving him at least one more shot as they enter the 2021-22 season. 

Primed for a breakout season, Porzingis has the opportunity to change the narrative currently surrounding him and showcase the unique skillset he possesses. If he’s able to have a better season on both ends of the floor, don’t be surprised if the Mavericks are one of the top teams in the Western Conference. 

New Mavericks GM Nico Harrison is confident Porzingis can get things back on track this season. 

“It really starts out with the coach and the culture,” said Harrison in a press conference in late July. “I think that’s going to elevate his play. We’re going to get the Porzingis that everyone wants to see.”

It’s clear that Doncic is going to do his part, but it’s up to Porzingis to be the secondary star he knows he can be. With the Mavericks only making minor moves to this point in the offseason, even more pressure will be on the big man to take the team to the next level.

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