Before the 2019 NBA Draft arrives, Peachtree Hoops will break down more than 70 available prospects with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks may look to do in late June.
This profile evaluates USC wing Kevin Porter Jr.
As a consensus top 40 recruit out of Rainier Beach High School (WA) in 2018, Kevin Porter entered his freshman season at USC with high expectations. At the high school level, he dominated the basketball and put up 27 points per game during his senior season. He was third in usage during his one season with the Trojans, who play an offensive scheme predicated upon ball movement and getting good looks for their big men.
As such, it’s tough to know what to make of Porter’s one season of collegiate play. Did he put up underwhelming numbers because of the massive adjustment he had to make operating mostly off the ball? Does he deserve credit for embracing the role the coaching staff asked him to take on, even though it would not do much to help his one-and-done plan to launch an NBA career? He played encouraging defense at times and looked barely interested at other times. What should be made of that? On top of those questions, one must also keep in mind that he will play his entire first NBA season at the age of 19.
The number that jumps out at you when scan Porter’s stat line is that he knocked down 41.2% of his three point attempts, albeit on a volume of just 68 shots. He is a very willing shooter, averaging 8.3 attempts per 100 possessions. He was limited to 21 games due to an injury and he played almost exclusively off the bench after returning from that ailment.
Porter sometimes looks the part of a pretty impressive athlete, but most of that comes when he is in space. At the NBA Draft Combine, he graded quite well in speed and agility drills but less so in strength and verticality measurements.
Trying to assess his value in this draft class basically comes down to what a given team sees as his most likely offensive role. Can he eventually start on a good team? Or would he have more value driving the offensive production on a second unit?
It does seem reasonably realistic that his ability to create his own shot will translate to the NBA level. What he demonstrated, at times, in his only collegiate season as an 18 year old was fairly impressive, but to become a more versatile offensive player, with a view toward a role as a starter, he will need to improve on his ability to connect more consistently in catch-and-shoot opportunities.
He’s not an above average passer but he is also not a ball stopper. Despite not putting up impressive numbers last season, his being challenged to play off the ball probably was good for him in terms of preparing him for what NBA coaches will ask him to do early in his career.
This is the action in which Porter prefers to operate... live dribble probing for a chance to set up his defender for a stepback. It’s a solid foundational skill for him but one wonders if he will ever be good enough to do this at the NBA level apart from working on the second unit.
When shooting from the perimeter his motion looks clean and repeatable. At times, his tendency to kick his feet out will get him a bit off balance, but the narrow areas of his shot could use a bit of refinement aren’t usually too challenging.
This possessions allows a look at how Porter attacks close out defenders. It’s obvious when looking at plays like this that he is not a nuclear athlete. He’s more of a fluid athlete than an explosive one. He takes contact and gets the ball to go down for the and one opportunity.
This transition possession offers another look at the type of athleticism with which Porter operates. He has really good straight line speed but he does not use it very often apart from breakaway opportunities. He uses a shifty, change of pace style of attack to set up his defenders. Here he demonstrates a potential budding skill of deceleration to get separation.
This end of the court is where Porter might be even more intriguing as an NBA prospect. He measured in at the NBA Draft Combine at 6’5, 210 pounds with a 6’9 wingspan, and he’s young enough that it’s possible that he could grow a bit more.
There were times when he was definitely just going through the motions on that end of the court last season, but when he was interested, he looked like a really promising defensive prospect.
He defended as well on the ball as he did off the ball. He proved to be a very switchable defender which suggests some attractive positional versatility.
This possession offers a nice glimpse into how Porter functions in a halfcourt man-to-man technique when he is engaged. The communication is timely and excellent. The switches are proactive. He does a great job of tracking both the ball and his man. His spacing is outstanding throughout the entire possession.
Early in the possession, he offers just enough help from the strong side corner to deny the dribble penetration. When the ball is rotated to the right side of the floor, Porter helps with a well-timed dig.
This possession offers a look at Porter’s on-ball defense. He just looks supremely confident in everything he is doing, which is encouraging. He knows from which side some help will come from a teammate at the rim and he uses that information to pressure the ball handler. After his man gives up his dribble, he does not look for the flashy play in the form of a blocked shot. He knows his man does not have his feet set for a decent shot attempt, so he just crowds him and stays perfectly vertical as to avoid the risk of a foul. Impressive stuff.
He also has a cunning skill of creating situations in which opponents think there is a passing lane available when there actually is not. He knows how to be just close enough and just far enough away from a potential passing lane to get a steal and create a runout opportunity.
By many accounts, questions exist regarding Porter’s work habits and motor. NBA teams have likely put a lot of work into gathering intel on him as a prospect in those areas. He flashes the ability to lock in defensively but the consistency of his effort will be a key part of his draft evaluation.
If a team believes he will be motivated to put in the required work, Porter could be drafted as early as the late lottery. If not, he could slide to the latter portion of the first round, with a doomsday scenario of an arrival in the 30’s.