Rounding It Out

Rounding It Out

Kevin Porter Jr. Completes Cleveland's First Round Troika

by Joe Gabriele (@CavsJoeG)
6/26/19 | Cavs.com

On Wednesday, less than a week after the smoke cleared on the 2019 NBA Draft, the Wine & Gold made it official – formally announcing the acquisition of Kevin Porter Jr., the final pick of the first round who was acquired by Cleveland via Milwaukee and Detroit.

There isn’t a big scouting report on the Seattle native, who played just 21 games at Southern Cal after dealing with a quad injury followed by a two-game team suspension. He was limited to just 21 games for the Trojans, but did enough to impress scouts and become a first round selection.

The 6-6, 218-pound shooting guard idolizes fellow lefty, James Harden. He’ll have to pump up his numbers to reach that strata, but he showed glimpses of that potential in college – averaging 9.5 points, 4.0 boards and 1.4 assists, shooting 52 percent from the floor, including 41 percent from beyond the arc.

Porter’s two best games at USC might have been his first – netting 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting off the bench against Robert Morris – and his last – dropping a career-high 17 points against a stingy Washington Huskies squad in the Pac-12 Tourney.

Despite his up-and-down freshman season at USC, there’s no denying his physical gifts. He’s a legit 6-6 with a 6-9 wingspan, is an outstanding ball-handler for a man his size and has all the tools to become a top-flight defender at the pro level. On the negative side, he needs to be a better decision-maker (averaging 1.9 turnovers to just 1.4 assists) and will have to be much more efficient at the free throw line, where he shot just 52 percent.

Porter came to USC as the top-ranked prospect from Washington state – ranked as highly as No. 28 overall by 247Sports. He stumbled in his single year at school, but apparently went a long way in rehabbing his reputation during the pre-Draft process.

This summer and next fall, he’ll be looking for minutes among a crowded young backcourt – that got a little more crowded 25 picks earlier when the Wine & Gold tabbed Darius Garland.

Kevin Porter Jr. averaged 9.5 points and shot 41 percent from long-range during his freshman season with the Trojans.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

A strong NBA bloodline doesn’t guarantee anything, but it doesn’t hurt. When the Cavs tabbed Darius Garland, they made him the third player on the squad whose father played in the league – joining Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr.

Darius’ dad, Winston Garland, was the 40th overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1987. He played seven NBA seasons with five different teams – netting nearly 4,800 points in 511 career contests. He’s in the Indiana High School Basketball Hall of Fame (where his son will one day join him). Darius won four state titles during his prep career in the Hoosier state, avenging his pops – whose school lost the state championship on a buzzer-beater by Scott Skiles in 1982.

Being a second-generation NBA player can have its plusses and minuses, but first-year Cavs assistant (and second-generation NBA coach) J.B. Bickerstaff thinks the advantages are tangible.

”You get to see the ins and outs of the game and the everyday lifestyle of the game,” said Bickerstaff. “When you’re just a fan or just a guy who’s trying to make it without that insight – you see things on TV, you see things that are made public, but you never see the private side.

”And being the son of an NBA player, you get to see the private side of it, you get to understand the routine of shootaround, the routine of practice days, the getting in at 2 o’clock in the morning, and then having your own family and trying to figure out how to find time for them and how you separate from your family when you need to. All the things that are very difficult, especially for young guys who are just trying to navigate their way.”

Every June, the debate rages on – Proof vs. Potential. The Cavaliers – with their three first rounders – took a little from Column A and little from Column B. Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. played 26 combined games in college; Dylan Windler started 96 games at Belmont.

Windler – a four-year man who the Warriors were reportedly smitten with – racked up 100 triples and 18 double-doubles as a senior and was one of just three Division I players to average 20.0 points and 10.0 boards. He was also one of four seniors that were taken in the first round this year – joining UNC’s Cameron Johnson (Phoenix, No. 11), Washington’s Matisse Thybulle (Boston, 20) and Virginia’s Ty Jerome (Phoenix, 24).

Windler didn’t work his way up the depth chart over his four seasons at the Nashville-based mid-major. He shot 43 percent from deep as a junior and 40 percent as a sophomore. He averaged double-digit rebounds over his last two seasons and shot 85 percent from the stripe as a senior.

Some players are ready to roll after just a single season of college ball. Others need a couple seasons to refine their game. But four-year college guys have proven themselves time and again of late, and the Cavaliers roster is all the proof one needs. Both Larry Nance Jr. (Wyoming) and Matthew Dellavedova (St. Mary’s) were four-year guys, and it’s safe to say things have worked out pretty well for both.

With the Porter pick being made official, the Cavaliers will now come to Training Camp with three first rounders from the same Draft for the first time in team history.

The team has had two first rounders eight times before – 2013 Bennett (1), Karasev (19) | 2012 (Waiters (4), Zeller (17) | 2011 (Irving (1), Thompson (4) | 1999 (Miller (8), Langdon (11) | 1997 (Anderson (13), Knight (16) | 1996 (Potapenko (12), Ilgauskas (20) | 1986 (Daugherty (1), Harper (8) | 1983 (Hinson (20), Granger (24).

The only other team to emerge from last Thursday night with three first rounders was New Orleans – who grabbed F Zion Williamson (1), C Jaxon Hayes (8) and G Nickeil Alexander-Walker (17).

How new Head Coach John Beilein plans to play his young roster will begin taking shape in July – as the Cavaliers hit both NBA Summer Leagues this year. And while the squad will look to work out the kinks out West, this year’s Training Camp should be a competitive one.

Here are some of the positional battles that should shape up over the next couple months.

* In Friday’s introductory presser, John Beilein asserted that it won’t matter whether Collin Sexton or Darius Garland is actually the true point guard. That may be so, but as of the 2019-20 season, the NBA still plays with one ball at a time – and both players operate better with it in their hands. There are end-of-game and size-mismatch scenarios that will need to be worked out before the regular season tips off. On the positive side, the two will push each other in both practice and the real thing.

* Cedi Osman showed huge improvement from his rookie to sophomore seasons – upping his scoring average over 9.0 points in the process. But with Cleveland’s banged-up frontline, he didn’t face much competition last year. (He was even pressed into some duty at the 4.) But he’ll have Dylan Windler to contend with this year. Windler did a little bit of everything at Belmont and, as a four-year man, comes to Cleveland pro-ready. Can the Young Cedi hold him off?

* Brevin Knight started the final 26 games of the season next to Collin Sexton, but things will be much different this season. Assuming the Cavs stick with the plan to play Sexton and Garland together – and Jordan Clarkson returning as the Eastern Conference’s top-scoring reserve – that reduces backcourt minutes for the remainder to fight over. Among Matthew Dellavedova, Knight, Kevin Porter Jr. (and possibly Windler), it’ll be true competition.

* Cleveland’s collection of veteran bigs was barely affected by this past Draft. But this fall, the Cavaliers will get a player back who’s yet to don a Cavaliers uniform in John Henson – giving Cleveland something it hasn’t had in many moons: a reliable rim-protector. Last year, the Wine & Gold finished dead-last in blocked shots – swatting just 195 attempts. (The Pistons, ranked 29th, blocked 331. Golden State, which led, the league, registered 525.)