Dirk Nowitzki is the go-to comparison these days for any sweet-shooting, 7-foot Euro. Naturally, many have evoked Dirk's name when talking about New York Knicks rookie forward Kristaps Porzingis.
But after Porzingis dropped 28 points, albeit in a loss, against Nowitzki's Dallas Mavericks on Monday night, the future Hall of Famer called the comparison "unfair" because of how good the Latvian already is at the ripe age of 20.
Nowitzki and Porzingis engaged in a duel at The Garden, with the old guard getting the upper hand early thanks to 16 first-half points. But the pupil took over in the second half as the Knicks rallied from a huge deficit, pouring 18 of his game-high 28 points in that half.
The rookie's 28-point barrage on 13-of-18 shooting overall and 2-of-4 from three wasn't enough in a 104-97 Mavericks victory, but Nowitzki couldn't help but be impressed by the youngster's development, via Alex Wong of Sports on Earth):
"He's probably way ahead of the curve compared to when I was 20," Nowitzki said. "I was scared to death out there competing against some of my heroes that first year. He's way better than I was at 20. The comparison is probably unfair to him."
The quote jumps off the page at first glance. A Porzingis/Dirk comparison is unfair to Dirk? It certainly reflects well on Porzingis.
Nowitzki did take a little while to find himself in the NBA. Like Porzingis, Nowitzki entered the league at 20 years old. The big German averaged 8.2 points and 3.4 rebounds while just eclipsing 40 percent shooting overall and 20 percent from three in 20.4 minutes per game as a rookie. He often looked lost on the court, especially defensively.
Porzingis, on the other hand, is blowing those numbers away. The 7'3 Latvian is now averaging 14.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks on the season in 28 minutes a night. He's shooting 46 percent from the floor and a tick over 36 percent from three on nearly three attempts per game, and this is after a slow shooting start to the season.
For a more thorough comparison, Basketball-Reference.com has you covered:
Porzingis has Nowitzki beat in nearly everything thus far, and this doesn't even cover Porzingis' ability to be a difference-maker defensively. As brilliant as Dirk was and still is offensively, he's never been known as a defensive savant. Porzingis has the potential for two-way dominance, which is a reason why Nowitzki's "unfair" comment rings true.
This doesn't necessarily mean Porzingis is going to go down as a better player than Nowitzki. There's a long, long way to go before we get to that point. But Porzingis being so good, so fast is something not many saw coming. Even Dirk knows transcendent talent is blossoming in the Big Apple.
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