"When they made the pick, I texted [Knicks head coach Derek Fisher] immediately and said 'I like this kid, he can play.' A lot of people were down on him, but he can play. He's a skilled guy and I think we've gotten away from enjoying skilled players in this league. We get so many players that are athletic and big and strong, but he's a skilled player."
The Thunder are in New York taking on the Knicks on Tuesday. The Thunder played the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, falling 116-106.
Porzingis was drafted fourth overall in June, and his selection was met with heavy criticism.
But the 7-foot-3 Latvian has made a significant impact, drawing raves not just about his impressive athleticism -- his putback dunks make routine appearances on SportsCenter -- but also his refined overall game.
"He can shoot, he can make the right plays, he can defend, he's a 7-footer that can shoot all the way out to the 3-point line," Durant said. "That's rare. And block shots -- that's like a unicorn in this league."
The Thunder played the Knicks in November, losing 93-90 as Durant sat with a hamstring strain. Porzingis scored just seven points in the win.
Durant, who is listed at 6-foot-9 but is much closer to 7 feet, is viewed as one of the most unique players in league history, with his remarkable handling and shooting ability for a player of his size. So his appreciation for Porzingis' game should come as no surprise.
Porzingis fever has swept the NBA, with the Knicks big man coming in fourth -- one spot ahead of Durant -- in jersey sales numbers that were released last week.
"You've got to respect what he's doing," Durant said. "This being New York City, everything is under a microscope, but he's progressing at a high rate pretty fast, and he's gonna be a force."
Durant compares Porzingis' impressive skills to a unicorn
Thunder forward Kevin Durant calls Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis a NBA "unicorn" due to his combination of size and skill.
Porzingis among top NBA jersey sales
ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell discusses the marketability of Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis, who has the fourth best selling jersey in the league.