Cavs: 3 potential career outcomes for Kevin Porter Jr.

Cleveland Cavaliers wing Kevin Porter Jr. brings the ball up the floor. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers wing Kevin Porter Jr. brings the ball up the floor. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Kevin Porter Jr., Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers wing Kevin Porter Jr. reacts in-game. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Porter Jr. potential career outcome #1 for the Cleveland Cavaliers: Franchise centerpiece

This scenario would be the type of trajectory-altering outcome that members in the Cavs organization were talking about. For this instance to take place, the first move that Porter Jr. would have to make would be taking over a starting spot in the Cavs initial lineup. This would likely mean a removal of either Darius Garland, Collin Sexton or Cedi Osman from the starting lineup.

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If Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff believes that Porter Jr. is the real deal, then moving him into the starting five is a move that has to be made. Making him a starter would provide Porter Jr. with the extra in-game reps that he would need in order to take his game to a higher level.

But making Porter Jr. a starter would only be step number one in the franchise centerpiece scenario. The second step would be acknowledging that he is a star-level player and giving him star-level respect throughout the season.

According to a more recent article by Fedor, Bickerstaff has compared Porter Jr. to a young James Harden. Bickerstaff has first hand experience with Harden as he was an assistant with the Houston Rockets from 2011-2015, and spent time as the team’s interim head coach during the 2015-16 NBA season.

After working with Harden for multiple years, I trust that when Bickerstaff says he sees flashes of a young Harden in Porter Jr., he means it.

Now, Harden is one of the best pure scorers in NBA history and is the league-leader currently in 2019-20 at 34.4 points per game, so I want to be careful when mentioning his name among the likes of Kevin Porter Jr. But I do think their style of play shares some similarities, and the Cavaliers can use that to their advantage when considering how to best implement their young prospect.

As noted earlier, Porter Jr. would have to be trusted and respected as a starter for this scenario to work. As a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harden was never trusted to be a starter next to Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Harden was almost exclusively used as a high-scoring sixth man.

Harden was effective coming off the bench, and he won the Sixth Man of the Year Award for the 2011-12 NBA season. But it took another team, the Rockets, to realize that Harden could be more than just a bench scorer to truly unlock his full potential.

If Porter Jr. can raise his game to another level, hopefully the Cleveland Cavaliers would be able to realize his potential, and respect his talents like the Rockets have done with Harden. But handing Porter Jr. the reigns of the franchise is not the end of the story. What the Cavaliers would need to do next is build a roster better fit to surround the abilities of Porter Jr.

Porter Jr. is athletic, good at driving to the basket and making tough layups, and he is developing dribble moves that will better help him find open shots. When you combine all of those things together, the conclusion you come to is that Porter Jr. is a ball-dominant player.

He is at his best when he is creating plays for himself, and the best way to build a team around that talent is to add players who can thrive by playing off-ball. Hopefully potential knockdown shooter Dylan Windler, assuming he can be healthier regarding his stress reaction in his left leg that caused him to miss all of 2019-20, can be that sort of player, for instance.

Wings who can hit open three-point attempts and bigs who can set solid picks and fade to the three-point line are the types of players who I think would best be suited to surround Kevin Porter Jr. if he was a centerpiece. Having other ball-dominating guards could slow down the offense and make the overall flow of the game clunky. This of course would bring the fate of players like Garland and Sexton into question.

This scenario is for the career ceiling for Porter Jr. If he reaches this level of play and the Cavaliers are smart enough to trust him and build around him, Porter Jr. could lead the Cavaliers back to postseason contention.

Next up, we’ll examine the second potential career outcome for Porter.