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

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

Kevin Porter Jr. isn’t a quality NBA point guard at his point, and it’s unlikely he will ever be good enough to pilot an offense capable of making a deep playoff run. That’s hardly a criticism. Jaylen Brown, Paul George, and Anthony Edwards are great players that you don’t want running the point. 

The evolution of Kevin Porter Jr. is actually a 360-degree revolution. He came into the league as a shooting guard/small forward and fizzled, then was tasked with becoming a point guard, and from there, he’s gone back to being a shooting guard/small forward. 

For all of his shortcomings when leading an offense, Porter is excellent off ball. His spot up shooting, in a small sample, has been elite. He’s averaging 1.47 points per spot up possession and has an effective field goal percentage of 68.8%. This is a continuation of what he showed last season when he produced 1.37 points per possession on an effective field goal percentage of 73%. 

The same goes for his catch and shoot metrics. He has a 60% effective field goal percentage and is shooting 42.9% on 3-pointers, a season removed from a 71.6% effective field goal percentage and 48.2% shooting on 3-pointers. 

The problem for Porter and the Rockets has been the deployment of his talents. The number of spot up and catch and shoot possessions he has had over the past two seasons defies belief. He went from 2.1 spot up and 1.9 catch and shoot possessions per game in 2021-22 to 1.7 and 1.5 in 2022-23. For a player who may possess a plus trait, it’s borderline malpractice to not lean into that side of their game.   

The Rockets need to let Kevin Porter Jr. be Kevin Porter Jr. 

The on-ball skills that Kevin Porter Jr. has developed while playing point guard could become far more dangerous if utilized around his strengths off the ball. If his spot up and catch and shoot abilities are truly as elite as they’ve been over the past 12 to 18 months, the Rockets could have one of the league’s better shooting guards hiding in plain sight. 

Teams distort their defensive shape to close out 45% 3-point shooters, yet the Rockets have hardly weaponized Porter’s off ball shooting gravity. A quick pump-and-go action could also allow for his scoring and passing to play up a level and give the Rockets far more four-on-five actions in their offense. 

The evolution of Kevin Porter Jr. has had its ups and downs, but the end result should have the Rockets ecstatic. Is it an All-Star quality player? That remains to be seen, but what is clear is that Porter hasn’t grown into a point guard, he’s grown into Kevin Porter Jr., and that’s a hell of a player. 

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