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Fontana: Porzingis will need Knicks fans' patience

More than a few Knicks fans were none too pleased to hear Kristaps Porzingis' name called on June 25. And to a point, that's understandable.

Most consider Zinger to be a project who will need one or two years to develop before he's ready to be an everyday contributor.

International players who've yet to play an American style of basketball are the most unknown quality in the sport. People fear the unknown, especially when that unknown takes the form of a high lottery pick.

Knicks fans also haven't enjoyed the thought of selecting a player who will need time to develop and cannot help Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks win now. But that never would have been fair considering all of the best prospects in this draft class were under age 20.

But what is it that Knicks fans wanted from their highest draft selection in 30 years?

Rookies in this era rarely help playoff teams, either. Just 12 rookies over the past 20 seasons -- the era of NBA teenagers -- have averaged at least 24 minutes over more than eight postseason games, according to Four of them are Spurs.

They rarely attract major minutes either, especially first-year players who are as young as Porzingis and the two players Knicks fans tend to cite as their preferred pick at No. 4: Emmanuel Mudiay (No. 7 to the Nuggets) and Justise Winslow (No. 10 to the Heat). Rookies in their age group (aged 19 and 20) rarely see major minutes in the NBA. Of the 211 rookies that age who have played during the past 20 seasons, just 37 (17.5%) averaged 28 minutes per game, according to

So what about Year 2, when Porzingis will be 21 years old? Sure, fans may want to see a prized lottery pick become a regular contributor. But the reality is that young players often are not ready for that kind of next step so quickly.

Again looking over the past 20 seasons, 33.7% (62 of 184) of second-year players ages 20 or 21 were playing at least 28 minutes. By Year 3 and ages 21 or 22, that figure becomes 47.9% (78 of 163).

In other words, the likelihood of a young player the Knicks would have taken at No. 4 being a key cog in a deep Knicks postseason run by 2017 is slim.

Fans may not like it, but patience is key. Barring trades, the Knicks roster in two years will include 33-year-old Anthony, 29-year-old Robin Lopez, 27-year-old Kyle O'Quinn, 22-year-old Porzingis and 25-year-old Jerian Grant. It's possible they'll have as much as $64 million in cap space, too.

That may seem like a long way away, but by then it's a good bet Porzingis will be ready to make a real difference -- just like the rest of his draft class.

The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Knicks, MSG and Cablevision. Cablevision owns amNewYork. Scott Fontana, amNewYork's sports editor, can be reached at


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