Kevin Porter Jr: Role
Smooth transition to shooting stroke off the bounce
Strong ability to create separation with his crossover
Dangerous attacker in transition
Explosive vertical athlete
Elite first step
Loose handle limits him traffic
Questionable shot selection
Loses focus while defending off-ball
Offensive role at USC
Kevin Porter Jr. has struggled to carve out a consistent role on a veteran USC team. Since returning from suspension, his playing time has been inconsistent, with 10 minutes one game and 22 the next. As a result, he has played a secondary role in USC’s gameplan, which features heavy doses of Nick Rakocevic in the post. Transition has been his main source of offense, utilizing his open-court athleticism to cause havoc. In the half-court, he tends to look for his own shot primarily. He uses a vicious crossover to create space for his jumper. His quickness can allow him to blow by players on the perimeter, but his high dribble gets him in trouble in crowded areas. He has some flashes as a passer, but often is careless, contributing to a high turnover rate.
Offensive role projection -
Porter’s upside rests, almost solely, on his ability to create his own offense. He has a quick left-to-right crossover and an NBA level step back which he uses to create separation for his jumper. While he is good at some of the flashier east-west dribble moves, he hasn’t been able to create separation going toward the hoop. That's the biggest issue holding him back, because otherwise he's fast, able to accelerate quickly without the ball, and an excellent leaper with good body control when moving downhill. He has all the tools to be a fantastic rim attacker, but his handle doesn't allow this aspect of his game to be unlocked. The high pick-and-roll will help, as will NBA spacing, but he needs to learn to handle more functionally and string moves together. If he can develop this aspect of his game, a primary role may be in the cards.
If that doesn’t develop, however, Porter still has avenues to be useful within an NBA offense. He has shot well from beyond the arc on a limited sample. Attacking closeouts will likely be a strength in time. His ability to create and make pull-up threes gives him the potential to help sustain the offense in lineups that are lacking other self-creators. He may also develop into an effective cutter in time, using his above-the-rim athleticism to create high quality shots. While these things are useful, they aren’t overly exciting outcomes for a player with such dynamic capability.
Defensive role at USC
The USC defense features both a lot of zone defense and frequent double-big lineups. That leaves Porter defending on the wing, typically matched up with 2s and 3s. He is most effective when defending on-ball on the perimeter where his tools shine through most, though his technique needs refinement. Off the ball he’s been less effective, sometimes struggling to recognize when USC is playing man and when they are playing zone. His defensive awareness is not great, and he is prone to over-helping and leaving his man open. Some of his issues stem from USC not establishing a clear identity and expectations, but his natural instincts seem to be subpar.
Defensive role projection -
Porter’s best defensive assets are his strong lateral mobility and his solid frame. His best defensive fit will likely be guarding ball handlers, allowing him to make the most of his athletic tools. At 6’6” he will be able to guard most primary initiators, off-ball guards, and some wings. Currently, he is a liability when asked to defend away from the ball. While that can be expected to improve, it makes sense to use his positional flexibility to shift him towards a role that limits his off-ball help responsibilities. A system that switches frequently could benefit him as well, since it simplifies responsibilities and takes advantage of his ability to toggle between defending wings and guards. If he is able to refine his defensive awareness and decision-making, his physical tools offer the upside of making big plays as a help defender. He has already shown an ability to block shots as a help side defender. He also has a the length and the burst to be disruptive in the passing lanes, and the ball-handling and open court speed to turn a steal into an uncontested basket on the other end. If he can learn to create extra possessions without exposing a hole in his wake, he could be a valuable defensive asset.
Why Porter will earn minutes as a rookie
Porter will earn minutes because of the on-ball scoring punch he provides. While a starting role may not be in the cards initially, many teams around the league need a bench spark that can alter the flow of the game. He can be a dangerous second or third option on offense, capable of both shooting off the catch and off the dribble. The latter ability can be a potential safety valve for his team; in situations where the play breaks down, he can create a shot for himself late in the shot clock. Defensively, his athleticism and ability to match up with multiple positions makes him a flexible fit into many team schemes. Though a negative on defense presently, that flexibility will help minimize issues on this end of the court.
Why Porter’s minutes may be limited as a rookie
Initially, Porter may be in the awkward position of needing the ball in his hands to contribute while not being efficient enough to justify having that role (a situation many young players find themselves in, especially those cut from the “play to” cloth). On defense, he will struggle on the weak side, either losing track of his man or taking unnecessary gambles. The question is whether or not his offense will be enough to make up for his defensive deficiencies. Given his current proclivity to create for himself rather than others, that seems unlikely. His decision-making and court vision will need to improve before his skills will have a positive team impact. Further, his shooting mechanics may inhibit his ability to be effective in a lower usage, off-ball role.