The Memphis Grizzlies are in a great position leading into the draft.
With the second pick, there’s a 98% chance that Ja Morant is the selection for the Grizzlies. He’ll be the perfect player to replace Mike Conley in the next era of Memphis basketball. In addition, they could flip Conley on draft night and acquire another first-round pick, giving them another shot at finding a core or supporting player alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant.
There are two ways they could go with a pick through a potential Conley trade. They could be risky and make an upside pick, or they could be safe and pick someone with a high floor. If such a trade happened, Kevin Porter Jr. would be a fascinating upside pick. In a league where perimeter play and versatility reign supreme, Porter has the size and skill to have a great NBA career.
Porter’s stats don’t stand out, as he averaged 9.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 0.8 steals in 22.1 minutes per game in 21 contests. His shooting lines offer promise, as he connected on 47.1 percent of his field goal attempts and 41.2 percent of his 3-point attempts. Due to his role inconsistency and a suspension, Porter was never able to really unleash what he could be at the next level.
However, don’t let the stats fool you; he can play.
Kevin Porter Jr. is known for his scoring abilities. There’s a reason why he receives comparisons to JR Smith and Dion Waiters. He can score at all three levels, as he can shoot from deep, create in the mid-range, and finish in the paint.
In his lone season at USC, he flashed the potential to be a reliable 3-point shooter. His ability to create in the mid-range is captivating. His handle and his footwork are an absolute work of art, as his shiftiness can leave defenders in disarray. When attacking the paint, Porter has the craftiness to finish below the rim. However, he also possesses the size and the athleticism to finish on top of defenders with authority.
Another one of Porter’s big strengths is his build, as he has the perfect size for the prototypical NBA wing. At 6’5” with a 6’9” wingspan, and at 220 pounds, he has the size to play either wing position. With his size and athleticism, he can also become a lockdown defender. If his defense can be a plus at the next level, Porter can be a rare 3-and-D wing that can also initiate the offense and catch fire.
Areas of Improvement
Porter has to work on his motor and his habit of being inactive. Though he possesses the tools to become one, he’s not necessarily a plus defender at the moment. In addition, it’s hard to gauge his ability as an off-ball player, which may be a product of his system and of his confidence in his isolation scoring skills.
In addition, he has some maturity issues to work out off the court. He was suspended in the middle of the season for undisclosed reasons. Will his maturity be an issue at the next level? If so, will it affect the duration and direction of his NBA career?
He has all these tools to be great, but can he truly put it all together?
Kevin Porter Jr.’s floor is quite easy in my mind, as he could — at worst — be Shabazz Muhammad. However, his ceiling is quite fascinating and hard to judge. His body type and elements of his game remind me of James Harden, but that’s probably too high of a ceiling. Maybe his ceiling is JR Smith or a bigger Dion Waiters.
Porter honestly reminds me a lot of former Grizzly — and former Trojan — OJ Mayo. Mayo was a big guard with smooth scoring abilities. He was also a dazzling ball-handler, but the handles were too loose to fully run an offense. He had the build to be a plus defender at all 3 positions. Mayo had all these tools for greatness, but he couldn’t fully put it together, and his off-court issues cost him.
These are the same skills and traits I see in Porter’s game, and I want his off-court issues this past season to be a fluke, so that he can have a long, prosperous NBA career.
As far as his direction with this next era Memphis Grizzlies team goes, I like his fit alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant. If he can become a more active off-ball player, he and Morant would be one of the most electrifying, athletic young backcourts in basketball. If not, he can fill in as the team’s long-term 6th man — and there’s nothing wrong with that.
If the Grizzlies were to make a draft night trade in the late-lottery or mid-first round, I wouldn’t mind swinging with Kevin Porter Jr. He has all the tools to be a damn good player in the league, and with two close-to-surefire prospects, they could afford a swing for the fences here.
Stats found on and sports-reference.com