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Jason Kidd's comments on Porzingis hint at how Mavs misused big man

Jason Kidd's comments on Porzingis hint at how Mavs misused big man originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

If you're wondering how a change of scenery can benefit NBA stars, look no further than the 2024 NBA Finals.

Celtics vs. Mavericks will feature two players who didn't exactly leave the opposite team on the best terms: Dallas' Kyrie Irving, whose drama during his two-year Boston tenure is well-documented, and Boston's Kristaps Porzingis, who endured a rocky two-plus seasons with the Mavs.

After joining the Mavs in January 2019 via Dallas' blockbuster trade with the New York Knicks, Porzingis played some of the most inefficient basketball of his career, shooting just 42.7 percent from the floor in 2019-20 and hitting just 34.5 percent of his 3-pointers over two-plus seasons with the team.

Current Mavs head coach Jason Kidd only coached Porzingis for half a season in Dallas after taking over for previous coach Rick Carlisle prior to the 2021-22 season. But he provided some interesting insight into why the Porzingis-Dallas partnership didn't bear more fruit.

"I only had him for a short period of time and I thought it was going well in the sense of our defense, his ability to block shots, rebound," Kidd told reporters at NBA Finals Media Day in Boston on Wednesday, as seen in the video above.

"And then offensively, we looked to post him up a little bit more than Rick had used him in the post. It was strictly just on the perimeter of shooting 3s (under Carlisle). Both work -- he has the skill set to do both -- and as you know, in the business of basketball, there's trades that take place, and we're judged if it works or doesn't work, that's just a part of the business."

To Kidd's point, Porzingis attempted 7.1 3-pointers per game during his first season in Dallas under Carlisle -- by far the most of his career -- and posted up on just 15.1 percent of offensive possessions while averaging 0.81 points per post-up.

Contrast those numbers to Porzingis' first season in Boston, where head coach Joe Mazzulla helped the 7-foot-2 big man become one of the league's most lethal post-up players. This past season, Porzingis posted up on 19 percent of offensive possessions (sixth-most in the NBA) and averaged 1.3 points per post-up, first in the NBA among players who posted up on at least one possession per game.

Porzingis also cut back on the 3-pointers in the Celtics' loaded offense -- 5.1 attempts per game -- and the result was one of the most efficient seasons of his career: He set career highs in field goal percentage (51.6 percent) and 2-point percentage (60.6 percent) while hitting 37.5 percent of his 3-pointers.

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"When you talk about a big who can put the ball on the floor, who can score, I believe can play in the post -- in today's game, there's a lot of 3s, there's not a lot of post-ups," Kidd added. "But when you look at the defensive end too, a lot of times he doesn't get recognized for his defense of being able to change shots or (be) a shot-blocker. And I think here in Boston, he's done an incredible job of doing both.

"He plays his role, and that's I think one of the things that's underrated about KP: When you ask him to do something he does it and he doesn't complain about his role. He goes out there and tries to help his team win."

Unlike Porzingis' teams in Dallas, this Celtics squad is stocked with 3-point shooters, which allows Mazzulla to deploy Porzingis in the post more often. His effectiveness in that area is a big reason why Boston led the NBA in offensive rating this season, and it could play a major role in swinging the NBA Finals in the Celtics' direction.