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Houston Rockets: Kevin Porter Jr Needs a Floater to Unlock His Drives

Houston Rockets v Sacramento Kings
Houston Rockets v Sacramento Kings / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages
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Kevin Porter Jr is having one of his best stretches as a member of the Houston Rockets. Over the past three games, Porter is averaging 19 points, 5.7 assists, and 5 rebounds on 50% shooting from the field and 42.9% from 3-point range. Throw in some late-game heroics and it appears the young guard has turned a corner. 

The hot stretch also marks the first time he has scored 16 or more points in three consecutive games in his NBA career. For a player who has had a 50 point game, it highlights how inconsistent Porter’s play has been. 

Drives Aren’t Driving Kevin Porter Jr’s Success

One of the main drivers of Porter’s inconsistency this season is his inability to turn drives into production. Per NBA.com tracking stats, Porter’s 9.8 drives per rank 50th in the league, a solid mark, but his inability to turn those drives into positive outcomes has hampered his effectiveness. 

Of the 83 players who average over 7.5 drives per game, Porter Jr ranks 77th in field goal attempts (3.3), 65th in field goal percentage (44.2%), and 73rd in points (4.0). (Rankings are as of January 17) 

The 4.0 points per game that Porter averages from drives is well below average, but it’s hardly a death sentence. Kyle Lowry only averages 3.5 points on 8.9 drives per game and Tyrese Haliburton scores 3.8 points on 11 drives per game. 

While both Lowry and Haliburton aren’t effective scorers from drives, they use their dribble penetration to create shots for others. Porter fairs better in passing metrics, but there is one serious red flag holding him back. 

Of the 83 players who average over 7.5 drives per game, Porter ranks 34th in pass percentage (41.3%), 33rd in assists (1.2), and 17th in assist percentage (12.4%). Unfortunately, he averages the eighth-most turnovers per game on drives (1.2) and has the second-highest turnover rate (12.7%).

On drives, Lowry pairs a 14.9% assist rate with a 6.3% turnover percentage, and Haliburton dishes on 17.4% of his drives and only coughs up a turnover 5.4% of the time. 

The ten or so drives that Porter attempts a game is leading to 4 points, 1.2 assists, and 1.2 turnovers. Watching Porter play it is simply incomprehensible that he is producing such meager results on drives. 

He possesses an elite combination of burst and handle and can beat the best perimeter defenders in isolation. However, it’s what he does after he beats his initial man that leaves serious room for improvement. 

Trimming the turnovers would go a long way in making Porter a more effective driver. His current driving profile trends towards a pass-first player, but that only works if you’re able to consistently hold onto the ball. 

The Floater Could Unlock Kevin Porter Jr’s Entire Game

One area where Porter could stand to improve is on shots in the floater range. On shots three to ten feet from the rim, Porter has shot 16.3% this season. That is the worst mark on the Rockets and may explain his proclivity to turn the ball over and his poor finishing at the rim. 

When Porter beats the first defender it’s basically the rim or bust. He rarely takes mid-range jumpers and is poor at finishing them. When Porter beats his man off the dribble the only worry is if someone can meet him at the rim, and, because it’s the NBA, help is often a quick rotation away. 

However, a semi-consistent floater could give Porter a weapon to finish over defenders in the post, while also giving his man less time to recover on defense. In short, it would make him a less predictable player to defend, would help improve his scoring, lead to better passing opportunities, and limit turnovers. 

The other problem is that while Porter’s lob finishing is unfathomably bad right now, his finishing at the rim is not far behind. 

For the season, Porter is converting 58.8% of shots within three feet of the rim, the league average is 67.8%. The only Rockets regular that has been worse this season is D.J. Augustin and Porter is sporting a career-low mark by a substantial margin. 

However, as floaters begin to fall, defenders who would normally pack the restricted area will be forced to step out. In turn, Porter will have fewer contested shots at the rim and lob chances for his teammates on opportunistic cuts. 

The floater could help unlock Porter’s driving because right now, his drives are on a bridge to nowhere. A floater isn’t going to turn him into Michael Jordan, but it should help him get a few more points and assists, while also trimming the turnovers. 

If Kevin Porter Jr is going to carve out a long career in the NBA he is going to need to add unpredictable elements to his game. His athleticism and handle are his two best traits, but they’re largely wasted by a plan of attack that doesn’t punish defenses. Porter has a long way to go before his floater will be a weapon, but he needs one if he is ever going to reach his potential.

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