As someone who spent 16 years in the NBA, Stephen Jackson has seen players come and go. He knows the profile of those who will have a decent tenure in the NBA, as well as those who will likely be booted out and continue their basketball career in lower-tier leagues. In his eyes, Washington Wizards big man Kristaps Porzingis fits the profile of the latter.
"If he keeps going the way he’s going, he’s going to be out of the league”
Jackson and Matt Barnes evaluated the transactions and moves that went down at the trade deadline. They touched upon the trade that sent Porzingis and a protected 2022 second-round pick to the Washington Wizards to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Spencer Dinwiddie and Dāvis Bertāns.
For Jackson, Porzingis moving to a different team once again says a lot about him as a player. The Latvian can’t seem to find his own identity. And this will hurt him in the near future.
“I think in some kind of way he’s got to start figuring himself out now. In a year or two, if he keeps going the way he’s going, he’s going to be out of the league,” Jackson said, per SHOWTIME Basketball.
The trajectory of Porzingis' career
While Jackson didn't go into detail to beef up his argument, reviewing Porizngis’ relatively young career would back up his claims. Let’s recall that upon Porzingis’ arrival in Dallas, there was much expectation that he and Luka Doncic would form a deadly duo, so much so that the organization inked him to a massive five-year maximum contract worth $158 million. Not a single soul called the deal a sham.
Two and a half years later, it’s turning out to be one of the worst decisions in franchise history.
They initially thought that Rick Carlisle was the problem. So they brought in Jason Kidd — a player-turned-coach known for developing players. Not to mention he had just beefed up his resume with an NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Mavs did well in the first half of the season of the Kidd-era. But the organization believes they could’ve done better if Porzingis meshed better with Doncic. Porzingis was just a 7-foot-3 NBA player who could score 20 points per game on most nights. But with regard to defense and fitting in with his teammates, the Latvian struggled.
His 2021 playoff performance was a pretty tangible sign that Porzingis may not have enough basketball skills to last. In seven games, he averaged a mere 13.1 points and 5.4 rebounds. These are not the numbers of a max-contract player.
Porzingis is signed through 2023, provided he picks up a player option in 2023. Based on the trajectory of his career thus far, Jackson might be correct in his forecast. If Porzingis fails to find his identity and more importantly fit into an NBA system, then his days might indeed be numbered.