About a year ago at this time, Jontay Porter was rehabbing. Having torn both his ACL and MCL in his right knee back in October, Porter was back on the court getting back in shape when the unthinkable happened. He tore the same ACL for a second time.
Various mock drafts had placed Porter in the mid-to-late 1st round even after the initial injury in October. After re-injuring the ACL in March, Porter was still projected to land somewhere in the 2nd round. But the draft came and went last June, and Porter was without a team.
Porter kept rehabbing and had been forgotten by some NBA folks (myself included), until the Grizzlies surprised fans and foes alike by signing the undrafted rookie to a one-year guaranteed deal on March 8th. The deal itself is very team-friendly deal with a team option for around $1.5M next year, plus Porter would be a restricted free agent the following summer.
The question on a lot of people’s minds was why? Why do the Grizzlies need to take up a roster spot with a player that might possibly never play for the team? Why sign another big when your roster already has quite a few players that play a similar role to Porter?
That last criticism is correct. The Grizzlies have a lot of mobile size right now. Going into next season, the Grizzlies will have no shortage (no pun intended) of big men. Gorgui Dieng, Jonas Valanciunas, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Brandon Clarke are all ahead of Porter on the depth chart barring injury. You also have bigger forwards like Kyle Anderson and Justise Winslow that can play the four.
Then, there’s the question of whether the rehab will stick. We’ve seen Porter get into rehab and re-injure his surgically repaired knee. At least now he has time on his side, whereas in 2019 he was trying to get back healthy for the draft. Porter has had a year to just work on his health and rehab. Not having a deadline allowed him to work through without pressure, and the Grizzlies are still maintaining that by setting a goal of training camp for next season.
With how the timeline currently is for guaranteeing contracts, the Grizzlies could get Porter into camp and see that he’s not quite ready and they’re off the hook. Or, he could be ready to play and it only costs them $1.5M for one season. Easy as that.
So, why Porter?
If you don’t remember, Porter showed a lot of skill as a bigger forward with an ability to hit mid-to-long range shots. He passes the ball effectively and can score from the post too.
On display is a skill set the fits perfectly with how Taylor Jenkins likes to run the floor and get those mid-range pick-and-pops and threes on the wings. He can get the ball in the lane and get it outside for wide open shots or get his own shots in the flow of play.
There’s a reason that Porter was considered a lottery pick at one point. He has a lot of raw potential that never was showcased in college due to the injuries to his knee. Considering the amount of money and the type of deal this is, the Grizzlies can’t lose. In a similar way, this is a deal that’s very much the mood of this front office. Sign or trade for a player on a mostly team-friendly deal, and if it doesn’t work you’re able to cut them loose or only have to suffer through a short time of bad/low productivity. See De’Anthony Melton, or Josh Jackson, or Justise Winslow, or Gorgui Dieng.
If it doesn’t work out, so be it. Right now the deal could be looked at a little differently depending on what happens with the current suspension of the league. The team may not even need that extra roster spot anyway. So take the chance on a young, unproven player that may be a massive hit that you have a lot of control over the next contract. If it fails, it fails.