The Cleveland Cavaliers’ night was expected to be over after their two first-round picks, but they had other plans. If it weren’t for off-the-court issues, Kevin Porter Jr. would have heard his name much sooner in the 2019 NBA Draft than the last pick of the first round. Due to that, the Cavs took the opportunity to trade back into the first round to take USC forward, trading four future second-round picks to do so.
Sources: Cavs sent four second-round picks and cash to Detroit for pick No. 30.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 21, 2019
Porter is a project, but he has the type of game, athleticism, and ability to be a solid player in the NBA. During his lone season at USC, the 6-foot-6, 218-pound forward averaged 9.5 points, four rebounds, and 1.4 assists while shooting 47.1% from the field and 41.2% from long distance in 22.1 minutes per game (21 games, four starts).
'Since I was young I've always been good at creating space… so the step back kind of came naturally to me… @JHarden13, his style of play is kind of the same as mine…'
— DraftExpressContent (@DXContent) June 21, 2019
Here’s what Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman says about the newest Cavalier:
Porter has classic NBA 2-guard tools with a strong frame and plus athletic ability. It’s still his shot-creation that separates him. It popped right away during step-back moves, crossovers into pull-ups and behind-the-back-dribble pull-backs. Porter can separate into jumpers that fall in his shot-making wheelhouse. He shot 41.2 percent from three. He’s also smooth in the open floor and capable of playing through contact around the basket. He’s shown potential as a passer as well, though his decision-making isn’t up to speed.
The downside to Porter’s fancy scoring game is his tendency to settle for hero shots. He takes low-percentage, contested two-point jumpers. He can be a ball-stopper. He needs to improve his understanding of how to score within the flow of an offense. Porter shows little interest in getting to the basket in the half court. His 24 made free throws all season are a reflection of his questionable shot selection and level of concentration (52.2 percent free-throw shooting). His 39 turnovers to 30 assists highlight his suspect playmaking IQ.
Porter had some impressive defensive sequences, demonstrating both strong on-ball pressure and the instincts to make reads off the ball. He has promising tools for defending opposing wings. Expect lapses here and there, particularly early, but with enough coaching and work ethic, Porter has the chance to add value as a two-way player.
Porter averaged just 22.1 minutes and 7.5 field-goal attempts per game in college, so it’s unlikely he’ll offer anything more than random scoring outbursts as a rookie. He’s too talented as a finisher and shot-maker to go completely quiet, but his appeal stems from long-term potential once he picks up on the nuances of the NBA game. That won’t be in his first year. Suspended by USC during the regular season, he also has some maturity questions to answer.
Projected role: Scoring specialist
Porter’s identity will be built around his scoring. Consistency will determine whether he’s more of a bench spark or starter who can approach 20 points per game. Scouts have considered him one of the draft’s biggest wild cards given his upside and style of play, which is vulnerable to inefficiency. The safest projection envisions him mirroring Kelly Oubre Jr., who started slowly before thriving with his second NBA team.
If he can fix his off-court issues and mature a bit, Porter might be a steal for Cleveland, especially at No. 30. Like many late-first-round picks, the 19-year-old has a number of questions marks, but given his ceiling, he was the right guy to take a chance with. If head coach John Beilein and the rest of the coaching staff and the team can instill a positive mindset in Porter and keep him on the right path, he could prove to be quite the pick for the Cavaliers.