Embiid's success gives Sheppard confidence in Porzingis


Kristaps Porzingis came over to the Wizards in the final moments of this year’s NBA trade deadline. In exchange for Davis Bertans and Spencer Dinwiddie, Porzingis provides Washington size (7-foot-3), three-point shooting, rim protection, and depth down low.

However, one knock on the 26-year-old is his injury history. Washington, though, didn’t balk at bringing in a player who has an extensive injury history. Porzingis even reminds general manager Tommy Sheppard of a perennial MVP candidate.

“You go around the league, you know, Joel Embiid missed a couple years and I think people saw the talent was there,” Sheppard told NBCSW’s Chris Miller. “It makes it worth waiting. So certainly, we look at things through a similar lens. Is the talent good enough to take the risk? In this case, there's no question.”

Embiid, the starting center in Philadelphia, missed the first two seasons of his NBA career with a broken bone in his foot after being drafted third overall in 2014. There were serious concerns that the big man would be a complete bust. Fate would have it that he’s been a five-time All-Star, three-time All-NBA Second Team selection, and has been in the MVP conversation year after year as one of the league’s top centers.

Porzingis and Embiid share certain traits: seven-foot-plus size, ability to shoot the three, and incredible rim protection. Now that Porzingis is a Wizard, his ceiling could return to what it was during his early days in New York.


“I've known Kristaps since he was a very young man and I know his work ethic and what he'll do,” Sheppard said. “He had two unfortunate injuries and played through, maybe when he shouldn't have, through one of them. And, you know, there's some residual certainly there. But we're familiar with working with players coming back from injury.”

Porzingis was drafted No. 4 overall by the Knicks in 2015. He immediately became a fan favorite in the league, earning the moniker ‘Unicorn,’ as he went on to earn All-Rookie First Team honors in 2016 and an All-Star nod two years later.

However, he’s been bitten by the injury bug several times in his career. Several times. To put it in perspective, he missed the entire 2018-19 season with an ACL injury, and since then has not topped 57 appearances in a single season with various ailments.

But with new surroundings in D.C., Porzingis could be primed for a return to dominance, especially now that he can pair with Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma, Daniel Gafford and other unique talents all over the floor.

“He's an elite cutter that opens up a lot of things and it with his size, you know, you think about maybe having him and Gaff together. You could really, really put some pressure on the rim,” Sheppard said. “With his ability to shoot the ball, it gives you a lot of versatility, a lot of different opportunities, and you just see the Basketball IQ continue to grow.”