Most important Mavs stats: Kristaps Porzingis’ blocking prowess is worth more than most

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DALLAS — With the NBA on hiatus due to COVID-19 coronavirus precautions, The Dallas Morning News is evaluating five of the most important statistics through the Mavericks’ season so far.

Earlier this week we covered the Mavericks’ NBA-best offensive rating and their struggles during clutch time.

Next: Kristaps Porzingis’ shot blocking.

Fans heard Rick Carlisle praising Porzingis throughout his dominant stretch through February — when Porzingis averaged 27.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.0 blocks in 11 games from Jan. 31 to March 1 — and there was one key point the Mavericks’ coach continually emphasized.

Sure, Porzingis’ offensive contributions were important, as Porzingis shot 50% from the floor and nearly 40% from three and helped buoy Dallas at times without Luka Doncic.

But Carlisle just as often mentioned Porzingis’ defensive and shot-blocking prowess.

“You stack it all up,” Carlisle said after the March 1 win in Minnesota, “(and) this guy is a great young player.”

While Doncic may garner more attention, Porzingis has become a league-wide example of blocking excellence.

Porzingis ranks fifth among all NBA players by averaging 2.1 blocks per game. He has blocked at least five shots in seven games this season.

Porzingis has failed to record a block in just seven of his 51 games this season.

His production around the rim is perhaps to be expected.

He averaged a career-best 2.4 blocks a game in the 2017-18 season with the Knicks that garnered All-Star recognition but was shortened by a torn ACL. Porzingis’ lowest season average — 1.9 blocks a game — came in his 2015-16 rookie season.

But Porzingis’ blocking abilities have been especially crucial to Carlisle’s focus on defense.

His rejections often help the Mavericks find opportunities to either score in transition or space the floor for an offensive set before the defense can recover. That’s especially useful for a focal player as versatile as Doncic and with an offensive that features four of the NBA’s top 10 players in offensive rating: Doncic, Dorian Finney-Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Porzingis.

As Porzingis has found a rhythm in 2020, especially in the six weeks before the league’s suspension, his production has placed him in rare company.

He’s just the second player in NBA history to have multiple games of 35 points, five blocks and five 3-pointers made, joining former Mavericks center Raef LaFrentz. And Porzingis is the 11th player in history to tally at least 38 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks and four assists in a game, which he did March 1 against Minnesota.

If and when the NBA season resumes, Porzingis’ presence and production in the defensive paint will be crucial to Dallas’ playoff push.


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