Kevin Porter Jr. is worth being excited about. There’s definitely an argument to be made that, as of now, he’s the most interesting young prospect on the Cleveland Cavaliers. He has on and off-court questions to answer, but the talent is there. For Porter Jr. and the Cavs, it’s about finding the best path forward.
What last season was like
Porter Jr.’s per game averages — 10 points, 2.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 23.2 minutes per game — don’t scream future cornerstone. Even some of his underlying numbers (50.5 eFG%, 33.5% three-point shooting, just two free throws per game) aren’t exactly eye-catching.
But the highs of Porter Jr. — think his 30-point game against the Heat, his 24-point game against the Rockets, his seven assist game against the Nets —show that he had real skill and a feel for the game at 19. That feel, that natural ability can’t really be taught. A few injuries here and there, plus a very high foul rate, were part of what kept him from being his best self.
The performance against the Heat is particularly instructive. That game showed shot making prowess and an ability to draw fouls (he took a season-high 10 free throws in that game) that the highest level players do. When the game slows down late or in games that matter, having guys that do what he did in that game is huge. As he gets stronger and the game slows down for him — even on his best nights, you can see him trying to do a little bit too much — those skills should only get better.
Again: The overall picture isn’t perfect. But it’s hard not to look at.
What his role could look like
In a different world, Porter Jr. as a starter this year would be interesting. He could offer some secondary creation and slashing off the main guard and would probably benefit from more time on the floor with the likes of Kevin Love and Andre Drummond.
But the Cavs — and I think rightly — are going to bring him off the bench. Due to his offseason incidents, and the fact that he had a delayed start to training camp, means he probably starts the year towards the back of the rotation and will have to earn more minutes as the season goes on. It wouldn’t be shocking to see him begin the year only getting 15-20 minutes a night.
On the bench, he fits well with who should be the core of the Cavs bench: Nance, plus two of Dylan Windler, Isaac Okoro and Cedi Osman. It’d be fun to see him and Okoro play as a duo at least some of the time to put some length on the floor at the two and three spots. If the Cavs go smaller with Nance at the five, something like Porter Jr./Osman/Okoro would be fun. Whomever the point guard is, Porter Jr. can be a secondary creator in the lineup with good infrastructure around him.
Shooting is the obvious number to watch. If Porter Jr. can get up closer to 40% overall with an effective pull-up jumper, watch out.
However, the bigger one is his turnover percentage. Last year, on a usage rate in the 75th percentage of wings, he had an assist percentage of 14.2% (which is good) and a 0.69 assist to usage ratio (nice). However, he also had 17.7% turnover rate – putting him in the second percentile of wings, per Cleaning The Glass. That’s way, way too high if he’s going to have the ball in his hands and given the freedom to create and attack. If he can cut that number one down, he’s probably taken a step forward.
It’ll take time, but Porter Jr. will get himself into the Cavs rotation and look like a building block. As frustrated as the Cavs are with him, no one in the organization is ready to just write him off entirely.