Houston Rockets: The Kevin Porter Jr. evolution isn’t leading to a point guard

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The Kevin Porter Jr.'s point guard experience

The NBA is broken down into three tiers of point guards; elite offensive hubs, steady Eddies, and trial-by-fire prospects. The elite offensive hubs are your Luka Doncic’s, Trae Young’s, and Stephen Curry’s, the steady Eddies are solid starters like Mike Conley or excellent backups like Tyus Jones, and the final tier, trial-by-fire prospects, comprises players such as Cade Cunningham and Kevin Porter Jr. 

Guiding a league average offense as a primary ballhandler is one of the most difficult tasks in the sport. It requires the ability to create offense for yourself and others at an exceptionally high rate, and thus far, Porter has struggled to do both. 

Kevin Porter Jr.’s struggles running an offense

Per NBA tracking data, Porter averages the 27th most isolation possessions per game but has produced a 34% effective field-goal percentage on those possessions, leading to a 47.8th percentile ranking. 

Not all great point guards rack up value through isolations, but Porter has struggled even more as a pick-and-roll ball handler. He’s eighth in the league in pick-and-roll ball handler possessions but 45th in points per possession out of 56 players who average at least 4.0 pick-and-roll ball handler possessions at 0.78. 

Porter’s struggles to score in isolation and as a pick-and-roll ball handler wouldn’t matter if he was also dishing dimes like a cashier from the 60s. Unfortunately, his passing hasn’t been up to the task. He’s 37th in assists per game at 5.1 and tied for 27th in total assists and total points generated off assists. 

Porter’s passing metrics also represent a step backward. Last season, he averaged 9.4 assists per 100 possessions, but that mark is down to 7.1. His decrease in passing also hasn’t cut into his turnovers, as he’s averaging the same 4.8 turnovers per 100 possessions as he did last year.  

The metric that captures Porter’s struggles as a primary ball handler is the bread and butter of NBA guards: drives. Porter ranks eighth in the league in drives per game at 17.1, but he is 22nd in points per game (8.1) and 32nd in assists per game (1.2) on drives. 

Kevin Porter Jr. has flopped at point guard

Simply put, to be a true NBA-caliber point guard, you have to do something well when guiding an offense, and Porter has struggled to score efficiently and set up his teammates. This helps to explain the Rockets’ dismal offensive ratings the past two seasons, ranking 26th last season and 28th this season. 

The Rockets’ belief that Porter can be a point guard is either misguided or part of a plan to get him valuable on-ball reps to develop him into a more productive secondary option. He is clearly in the trial-by-fire tier of point guard, but at this point, he’s fast becoming a burn victim. 

Next: Kevin Porter Jr. may not be a point guard, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t good