Continuing our extended look at possible Miami Heat draft prospects from the experts who know them well, Kenneth Su of the SB Nation USC blog Conquest Chronicles was kind enough to share his thoughts on Kevin Porter Jr., who could tempt them if he’s still available when Miami selects at #13.
Did Porter exceed or disappoint expectations at USC?
K.S. - Kevin Porter Jr. failed to reach expectations at USC for both on and off court reasons, though it may not be all his fault. He missed 12 games, 9 from a quad contusion and 3 from a suspension cause unknown. Porter Jr.’s quad injury occurred at the beginning of the season, limiting his chances at developing team chemistry and fitting into head coach Andy Enfield’s scheme. This may have limited his ability to make an impact, somewhat explaining his underwhelming stat line of 9.4 points, 4 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game. That said, his numbers skyrocket to 17.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per 40 minutes (or 15.5/6.5/2.3 on per 36).
It raises the question: Why did Porter Jr. play so few minutes (22.1 mpg) under Enfield? After missing roughly a third of the season due to injury, Enfield struggled to trust Porter Jr. within his system. This culminated in Porter Jr. ignoring a timeout to end the game at Oregon State.
2pt game last night in Corvallis. Kevin Porter disregards Enfield calling a timeout pic.twitter.com/rVXRbfqsyB— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) January 11, 2019
If there is one NBA top skill, what is it?
K.S. - Porter Jr.’s top skill is the ability to create from scratch. He has an array of dribble moves to create separation, and is very capable of driving past slower defenders to get to the hoop and finish. When there’s a shot available, he goes for it, and he may be the best player of this draft class if you need something late in the shot clock. I think the comparisons to James Harden are overblown, but every so often Porter Jr. will unleash a move that inevitably draws comparisons. Porter Jr. shoots a strong percentage while jacking up a variety of difficult, off the dribble shot attempts. At 47.1 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from three, NBA teams can only imagine how Porter Jr. will perform with the increased space and freedom of the NBA game. Many scouts may point to his 52.2 percent free throw percentage as a reason for pessimism. After all, free throw percentage is the best statistical predictor of NBA shooting. But one might only need to look at Andre Iguodala (who shot 58 percent from the free throw line and 33 percent from three this past season) to see an exception to this trend. After all, Porter Jr. maintains quality mechanics and his ability to shoot in rhythm has served him so far.
If there is one NBA glaring weakness, what is it?
K.S. - There are many legitimate answers here. Scouts can point to Porter Jr’s shooting on the next level or even his maturity. But ultimately it is Porter Jr.’s greatest strength that lends itself to his greatest weakness. Porter Jr.’s shot selection is questionable. With the ability to create space from defenders at any time, Porter Jr. far too often steps back and elevates into a midrange jumper. These are shots that the NBA is moving away from. Head coach Andy Enfield is not looked upon as a great disciplinarian, so perhaps the combination of Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra will get Porter Jr. to develop in his shot selection.
If his three point shot translates in the NBA, Porter Jr. should be an ideal off-ball shooter. But at USC, Porter Jr. struggled to move and find openings off the ball, limiting his value when the ball wasn’t in his hands. Again, this should be a coachable correction. Both these issues stem from basketball IQ and maturity, but I personally would hesitate to make a judgement about maturity just yet.
Other than his physical gifts, how he could he contribute to the Heat?
K.S. - Unfortunately, Porter Jr. seems to fit on the opposite ends of each of these traits. We have already seem Porter Jr. ignore coaching, and taking shots outside of the offensive scheme. His maturity has been questioned by many, though I would not make that judgement myself. His energy is great on the ball, but his lack of off ball movement on both offense and defense shows a player who will need to be more focused and disciplined on the next level. On the USC team, Porter Jr. was not a leader, although this may be caused by the inability to play for the first stretch of the season. That being said, Porter Jr. and his agent have done a great job flooding mainstream sports media with stories of his character. ESPN, BleacherReport, and The Ringer have all released feature pieces about Porter Jr.’s upbringing and his father’s passing. My two cents is that this is an attempt to alleviate character concerns, but only time will tell whether those concerns are legitimate.
What do you think NBA scouts or media pundits missed in his evaluation, what under-the-radar talent that could surprise an up-or-down side?
K.S. - Much is made about Porter Jr.’s insane shot creation and athleticism, but I am actually most interest in Porter Jr.’s potential on the defensive end. Extreme athleticism aside, Porter Jr. has defensive tenacity, and seems to relish the opportunity to hound opposing ball-handlers. Basketball Reference actually lists .7 defensive win shares for Porter Jr., compared to .5 offensive win shares. The flash in Porter Jr.’s game may be in his offensive fireworks, but his on ball defense is a consistent bread and butter. He has the quickness to mirror lead guards, athleticism to keep up in space, and length to bother almost any shot. And Porter Jr. is much more Jrue Holiday than Andrew Wiggins on the defensive end. Aside from an occasional reach, he takes advantage of his athleticism with intelligence and effort. His gift on the defensive end has lost luster in the public eye because of his crazy offensive capabilities.