What are the chances that is Kevin Porter Jr. the Rockets’ best player?
Kevin Porter Jr. was handed the reins to the Rockets offense last season to mixed results. He was dreadful to start the season as he struggled with turnovers and inefficiency. Over his first 26 games, he had an effective field goal percentage of 43.4%, a turnover percentage of 22.4%, and an offensive rating of 90. However, he was able to right the ship over his final 35 games, boosting his effective field goal percentage to 55.7%, turnover percentage to 14.5%, and offensive rating to 113.
Porter’s turnaround was substantial, and it bodes well for his NBA future, but he still has a ways to go and is now entering his fourth NBA season. While he wasn’t as bad as his first 26 games suggested, it is unlikely he is as good as his final 35. His full season line of a 51.1% effective field goal percentage, 17.7% turnover percentage, and 103 offensive rating are likely more representative baselines for him.
The good news is that Porter broke out as a 3-point shooter, hitting 37.5% of his threes on a difficult shot diet. Even if he can’t replicate or best that performance, he has a sizeable cushion to keep it as an asset. The bad news is that Porter’s scoring within the arc completely fell apart.
He posted career-low shooting percentages within 10 feet of the rim and saw his shooting in the mid-range fall from the previous season. Either in response to his 2-point shooting woes or his newfound ability to hit threes, Porter took the fewest percentage of his shots within the arc.
Playmaking was another area where Porter was hit-or-miss. As mentioned earlier, his turnover percentage held him back substantially in the early part of the season, and he wasn’t able to make up the difference with a steady stream of assists.
Porter’s surface level assists totals looked quite good. His 30.7% assist percentage was 18th in the league and his 6.2 assists per game were 16th. However, Porter was allowed to dominate their assist chances. The Rockets averaged 23.6 assists per game, and Porter’s 6.2 assists was the only mark above three.
If his playmaking was elite, it should have translated into better offensive performances. The Rockets’ offensive rating only improved by 0.65 with him on the court from 108.82 to 109.47, which both would have ranked in the bottom five for offensive efficiency.
This isn’t to say Porter is incapable of running an offense, but it’s a reminder that he still is a ways away from being a primary playmaking hub. The good news is that he showed he is a perfectly capable secondary creator, which is more realistically his long-term role.
Heading into the 2022-23 season, Porter should remain a plus from 3-point range, but whether or not he can get to the next level will depend on him regaining his ability on 2-pointers, and/or if his playmaking can take another step forward. However, if his role changes, where he is tasked with playing off the ball more, he could have his best season yet. Ironically, the best way for Kevin Porter Jr. to be the Rockets’ best player is to not ask him to be their best player.