Houston Rockets: Kevin Porter Jr’s the good, the bad, and the ugly start to the season

N.B. Lindberg
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Detroit Pistons v Houston Rockets, kevin porter jr
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Kevin Porter Jr, the Good: Getting to the line

Starting on a positive note, Kevin Porter Jr is bucking an NBA trend. The NBA’s rule changes and emphasis on allowing more physicality have seen scoring and free throw attempts dip. Last season, the free throw attempt rate was 24.7-percent, but this season it’s down to 22.3-percent. 

With free throws being harder to come by, maintaining your free throw rate would represent an improvement. However, Kevin Porter Jr has gone out and boosted his. Last season, his free throw attempt rate was 25.6-percent, but this season it’s up to 29-percent. 

The best scorers in the league make a killing at the free throw line. While Porter isn’t elite at getting to the line, the fact that he has improved is an encouraging sign. Remember, players can only get to the line when they’re putting pressure on the defense. 

Porter’s ability to generate free throws at a rate 30-percent above league average indicates that he could one day be elite at the skill. The fact remains, to generate free throws, defenders need to be scared the ball is going in the hoop. 

There are two primary ways to scare a defender into a shooting foul. The first is by getting to the rim. Teams protect the rim at all costs, and players who can consistently get there are always among the league leaders in free throw rate. The second way is to be a knockdown shooter. Teams give Russell Westbrook time and space on the perimeter for a reason, but they close out Steph Curry like it’s a life or death situation. 

Porter is not a knock-down shooter, so he’s generating his free throws primarily through his ability to penetrate towards the rim. With a slightly improved jumper, he’ll be able to garner more free throws from the mid-range. It will also force defenses to guard him more tightly on the perimeter, which will open up even more driving opportunities.