The 2017 EuroBasket championships are underway as the round of 16 has begun early Saturday morning.
The New York Knicks are well represented at the tournament with Kristaps Porzingis (Latvia), Willy Hernangomez (Spain), and Mindaugas Kuzminskas (Lithuania) each playing a significant role for their home country.
Let’s take a look at how each player is performing after the completion of round one. All three players and their respective countries have advanced to the knockout stage and games can be streamed on ESPN3.com.
Porzingis has led Latvia to a 4-1 opening round and were the second seed team in the group. A large accomplishment for the small european country with former basketball powerhouses Serbia, Russia and Turkey in the group.
Latvia was expected to advance to the Knockout stage as Porzingis talent far outweighs anything Great Britain or Belgium could put on the court but a second place finish in the group was definitely a surprise.
The EuroBasket championship is the perfect way for Porzingis to further develop his game as he is the team leader, the alpha dog and the guy Latvia relies on to score to close out games. The offense is run through Porzingis and Porzingis is gaining valuable experience in this role. Experience that will transfer over to the NBA level as Porzingis enters year 3.
Throughout the tournament, Porzingis has played 27.2 minutes a night scoring 22.4 points per game while grabbing 5.6 rebounds a night. His shooting splits have been very impressive for the focal point of the offense. He is shooting 51.4% from the field (38-for-74), 40.9% from thee (9-for-22) and 90% from the free throw line (27-for-30).
That’s elite level shooting to be part of the 50-40-90 club. Obviously, 5 games is small sample size but it goes to show the type of talent Porzingis is.
The defensive side of the ball, he continued to show he was an elite rim protector having 10 blocked shots already, good for 2 blocks per game. He has been getting into foul trouble and needs to learn how to defend without fouling a bit more. The three fouls a game is a cause of concern.
However, Knicks fans should be ecstatic to see Porzingis growth as a player in this tournament.
Willy Hernangomez will be the Knicks starting center on opening night. The 23 year old big man from Spain was particularly impressive down the stretch of the season for the Knicks. He became a double-double threat and showed a soft touch around the rim. Hernangomez is not an elite athlete but positions himself extremely well for success.
Hernangomez has used that late season NBA surge and has carried it over to the EuroBasket championships. Spain is the heavy favorite in this event and Hernangomez is a key contributor for the team.
During the tournament, Hernangomez has played just 18.3 minutes a night but has remained highly efficient. In those minutes, Hernangomez has averaged 10.6 points and 8.6 rebounds on per game basis. Pretty impressive with the limited action.
Hernangomez has shot well from the field hitting 20 of his 39 attempts (51.3%) and has shot well from the foul line making 13 of his 17 tries (76.5%).
Hernangomez still needs to improve his shot blocking ability as he has only swatted away one attempt during the tournament. Time will tell if Hernangomez ever becomes an average shot blocker but does a nice job of keeping the opposition in front and using his wide frame to box out opponents to collect rebounds.
Expect a big year from Hernangomez in year 2 with the Knicks.
Kuzminskas has been Lithuania’s second leading scorer throughout the team’s first five games. The 6’8 small forward has shown an increase in his offensive development which is very important heading into training camp with the Knicks. Kuzminskas will battle with Lance Thomas for the back – up 3 spot behind Carmelo Anthony. A strong performance in this tournament could be exactly what Kuzminskas needs to improve his confidence and win that spot.
Kuzminskas has averaged 14. 4 points a night and has been grabbing 4.2 rebounds. Not bad numbers for him.
Kuzminskas has played 23 minutes a night and has shot 28-for-59 from the field (47.5%). His three point shooting is currently at 10 makes for his 27 attempts (37%). His free throw shooting has been quite dismal as he struggled to get to the line and then capitalize on his opportunity. Kuzminskas has only attempted 11 free throws, making 6 (54.5%).
He has shown to be a better passer in the tournament showing improved court vision. Kuzminskas has 9 assists for the five games (1.8 per game).
All together the Knicks front office and the fans should be pleased with the development of the three players. Each has shown progression and each has learned how to be a go to player for their team.
Each will play valuable minutes for the Knicks next season and if they continue on this trek maybe all would not be that bad in the Garden come October.