Kevin Porter Jr: Defense
Our scouting grades represent the composite opinion of at least three different scouts. Each category is graded based on how we view a player’s current ability level relative to NBA players at the same position (guard, wing, forward or big). A grade of 1 indicates replacement level, a grade of 5 indicates NBA average, and a grade of 10 indicates historically elite. Our composite scouting notes help provide context for our grades.
Porter stays active when guarding the ball, however he is still lacking in the technique of how to defend. He needs to improve at getting down into a stance, as he often plays too upright. He puts himself out of position trying to create plays, usually resulting in a forced rotation and an easy bucket. He seems to be a willing defender and that stays locked in and reacts quickly, attempting to deter his man. He also has a solid frame and good quickness to rotate his hips and shoulders to stay in front of guards, but he will need to learn not to gamble. He is not always diligent about getting over screens.
Porter is, like many of his freshman counterparts, a ball watcher. This is somewhat a product of playing a lot of zone, but even when USC switches to a man defense he can get swept up in play-side actions, allowing his man to slide behind him for an easy bucket. He has shown some understanding of playing the next pass and using his anticipation to jump passing lanes, but he can sometimes take himself out of the play trying to create a turnover. He looks more comfortable when USC has played zone. In the zone, his head is on a swivel and you can see him calling out assignments. This supports the conclusion that Porter can be a good defender when things are simplified for him. He can defend well when he only has to worry about his man (on-ball), or when he only has to worry about defending a space (zone). He struggles with traditional off-ball defense as he has to be aware of both his man and help-responsibilities.
Porter is guilty of being an over-helper, which again may be a result of switching between zone and man so frequently. He will often come over to help on plays where he isn’t needed and try to create tie-ups or other defensive events. Instead of generating a high number of turnovers, he tends to more often pick up cheap fouls on reaches. He does seem willing to be a help defender, and he has the quickness to make crisp rotations when he reads the play correctly.
An area which could be a strength for Porter but for now is largely hypothetical. USC tries to defend ball screens through hard hedging and scrambling back (or, “show and recover”), meaning Porter hasn’t switched very often. He has done a decent job being disruptive when defending up a position in the zone, though the principles aren’t quite the same. He has a great frame to be a multi-position defender, but he hasn’t begun to put all of the pieces together yet. He will need careful and consistent coaching to be able to shine in this area.
High impact plays
Though he hasn’t posted huge numbers, Porter has shown some potential as a shot blocker, especially in transition. However, he might be better served scaling back his search for extra possessions in favor of playing solid, fundamental defense. Once he masters that, he will be able to make life uncomfortable for offenses with his long arms in the passing lanes.