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Ranking the Best 2015 NBA Draft Lottery Fits for Fast-Rising Kristaps Porzingis

Published by Bleacher Report on Tue, 16 Jun 2015

As the top NBA lottery teams peruse their options in the 2015 draft, Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis continues to gain favor in front offices across the league.His name will be called early on June 25, but how quickly' The 7-foot teenager was a mid-first round pick last year before withdrawing, and that looks like a brilliant move because he's being strongly considered by top-five clubs this year.Last month, several mid-lottery teams,including the Orlando Magic (picking fifth), expressed significant interest in Porzingis. Now it looks like other top-five franchises are showering him with attention:His length, athleticism and shooting touch are extraordinary for a 19-year-old, and he has the potential to play both frontcourt positions on offense and defense. The way Porzingis runs the floor, shoots from three-land and plays above the rim suggests his ceiling is loftier than nearly everyone in the 2015 class.Of the teams picking No. 2 through No. 5, which one would best maximize his gifts and mold him into the ultimate stretch-big weapon' Which spot should he hope to land'Here is where Porzingis lands in B/R NBA Draft Expert's Jonathan Wasserman's latest rankings:4. Los Angeles Lakers (No. 2 Pick)Kristaps Porzingisis a route the perimeter-starved Los Angeles Lakers should consider, even if they ultimately pursue a more established franchise player like Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor. But from the young Latvian's perspective, the marriage may not be so great.LA lands at the bottom of our rankings for Porzingis for one simple reason: Coach Byron Scott hasn't proven he truly values or consistently creates three-point opportunities.The Lakers ran several types of offense last year. We saw them implement Princeton, Triangle and several Horns and Floppy sets. None of them produced an encouraging mixture of pace, space or triples, as LA often settled for ineffectual drives or long, contested two-pointers.They landed 25th in three-point attempts during 2014-15 thanks in part to their middling pace of 94 possessions per 48 minutes.To be fair, the Lakers didn't have the optimal personnel for three-point shooting last year. Nevertheless, there's not enough evidence to suggest Scott will give Porzingis high-percentage opportunities near and away from the basket. And if LA does generate a better balance between threes and twos, you can bet Kobe Bryant and Nick Young will get the lion's share of outside shots.Three-point shooting isn't the only factor in determining Porzingis' top destination, but the Lakers' offensive style doesn't seem well-suited for his development, especially early in his career.3. New York Knicks (No. 4 pick)Derek Fisher's Knickerbockers suffered a historically putrid season last year, and they fared worse than LA in areas like points per game, offensive rating and pace.So why will Porzingis look better in Blue and Orange than he would in Purple and Gold'It's important to note that New York's roster had much less talent than Los Angeles' for much of the season. But more importantly, the Knicks moved the ball better, took more three pointers and shot a higher percentage from behind the arc.In addition, Fisher's crew also assisted on a higher percentage of their three-pointers and two-pointers. Porzingis should be able to get some room to generate triples and mid-range jumpers in rhythm.All of these factors offer a better outlook than LA, even if it takes a little time for him to coexist with Carmelo Anthony.Bockers fans shouldn't get overly excited, however, because the triangle isn't an ideal fit for him. Porzingis would likely be tasked with a significant amount of interior play and passing from the low and high post. Ian Begley of ESPN.com explains:For one, the young Latvian lacks at post game at this point in his career...Porzingis also isnt a strong passer...The numbers bear this out. Last season at Sevilla, he committed three turnovers for every assist in league play.Passing is an integral part of the triangle offense, particularly for big men, who are expected to make reads both with their backs to the basket and while facing it.So although Porzingis may get some nice shooting opportunities in the triangle, he might have a tough time adjusting to the post-oriented aspects of it. His 220-pound frame will struggle to handle some of the big bruisers inside, and his passing skills aren't well-equipped for the pivot distribution.2. Philadelphia 76ers (No. 3 pick)The near future and long-term outlook for the Philadelphia 76ers is far from clear, especially from a personnel standpoint.They don't yet have their desired backcourt in place, and their frontcourt currently consists of Nerlens Noel and a tenuous Joel Embiid.After Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported that a "CT scan revealed an issue in the healing process" for Embiid's foot, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer said there is a legitimate chance the Kansas product could miss another season. The Sixers also released a statement confirming the CT scan.But whether Porzingis plays alongside Nerlens Noel or an eventually healthy Embiid, he could actually enjoy an exciting and productive role for the Sixers.The reasons for optimism are based off Brett Brown's penchant for pushing the ball and finding plenty of perimeter scoring chances. Philly ranked sixth in pace last season, and they also tossed the sixth-most three-point attempts per game.Brown would do a creative job of utilizing Porzingis' end-to-end athleticism as well as his shooting prowess. He'd allow the youngster to play as a true stretch 4 with Noel or Embiid working the middle of the floor.If the Sixers had a more proven, productive backcourt, they would have an even stronger argument to land No. 1 on Porzingis' wish list.1. Orlando Magic (No. 5 pick)Let's be clear: Orlando isn't a slam-dunk, perfect fit for Porzingis, and Scott Skiles may notthe absolute best coach for him.However, it's the most favorable landing spot among these suitors due to the lineup and rotation.When inserted into the game as a starter or reserve, Porzingis will likely be the stretch 4 alongside a star-caliber center in Nikola Vucevic and dynamic playmakers like Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo. The Magic would be adding yet another power forward-type to the rotation after drafting Aaron Gordon last year, but their differing playing styles should complement each other during the flow of the game.Early in his career, the Latvian stud won't be asked to operate many post-ups or do an excessive amount of rebounding, which is perfect for his playing style and skill set. Vucevic will draw defenses in with his post play, and Porzingis will hurt opponents from deep if they stray to help in the middle.The pairing between Porzingis and the Magic guards should also be mutually beneficial. Payton and Oladipo are only going to get better at pushing the ball, slashing and creating dimes, and Porzingis would supply them with a superb fast break target and pick-and-pop weapon.While Skiles' defensive-oriented coaching style may not seem ideal, he's certainly not averse to jump-shooting teams. Grantland.com's Zach Lowe explained that Skiles was actually pretty flexible offensively for much of his time at the helm of the Milwaukee Bucks:Skiles is pigeonholed as a conservative defense-first type, and while he prizes tough defense above all else, he has proven a smart tactician capable of adapting to wildly different rosters. When the Bucks replaced an elite big-man defender with an undersize chucker who could run the pick-and-roll, Skiles retooled his offense into a fast-paced, assist-happy fun-time machine...Skiles also incorporated some funky actions for (Ersan) Ilyasova and a lot of very creative sets designed to spring (three-point specialist Mike) Dunleavy...Orlando's new skipper will demand solid defense from Porzingis, so the youngster's rookie year won't be entirely glamorous. But Skiles and the Magic rotation should be able to extract substantial progress from Porzingis on both ends of the floor while he grows into his role.The Latvian tower's transition to the Association will have some bumps no matter where he ends up. The Magic simply offer the best combination of teammates, role, offensive opportunities and steady development.Dan O'Brien covers the NBA draft for Bleacher Report.Follow him on Twitter: @DanielO_BR
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