How Cavs’ two-way signing Craig Porter Jr. can contribute immediately

Craig Porter Jr., Wichita State Shockers. (Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)
Craig Porter Jr., Wichita State Shockers. (Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images) /

It may be too early to raise a fist in approval, but the Cleveland Cavaliers may have found a shiny rock amid the rubble following 2023 NBA Draft night. Learn the name: Craig Porter Jr., 23-year-old out of Wichita State University was signed to a two-way deal, per a report from Chris Fedor of Porter cut his teeth from the bottom (JUCO) to leave an indelible badge on a D1 program.

It’s not often that small guards are more dominating rebounders over passers, but Porter was 12th in averaged boards recovered in the American Athletic Conference. The only other guard in the top 15 for the stat was Landers Nolley II, but he’s 6-foot-7, and Porter is 6-foot-2.

Great rebounding guards always serve a purpose because they deny the opponent possessions while getting out on the break to outrun the rivals. Cleveland was desperate for boards at times in the 2022-23 regular season, and especially in their first round series loss to the New York Knicks, too, for what it’s worth.

Porter is a capable scorer with a quick trigger in critical moments, evident by his five points in under a minute to force overtime against SMU on Feb. 12 and six more in double overtime en route to a win.

Considering the nature of his deal, he can play in 50 games in the regular season for the Cavs while getting time in the G-League with the Cleveland Charge for development. If next season goes like the last, and Darius Garland leads the league in hits to the face, anticipate Porter getting a call up from the Charge for a cameo.

The Cavs may have gotten a steal in Porter, who could contribute right away if called up.

The last roster spots are insurance policies for teams when rotation guys get wounded. It does not hurt the Cavaliers to give Porter one of those spots with the intention of redshirting or using him in case of an emergency. If the Wine and Gold likes what it sees, then a promotion from two-way deal to standard contract would be in order; the same could seemingly happen for second-round pick Emoni Bates, who reportedly could firstly be a two-way player as well. But first, he must pass the test of Summer League in Las Vegas.

On offense, Porter was third on the team in usage percentage (22.8) behind sophomore Jaron Pierre Jr. and senior James Rojas. Another sign of his dependability was his leading the team in minutes per game (33.6) while supplying 13.5 points nightly on 47.8% attempts from the field. As a senior, 30.6% of his tries were hoisted behind the arc, and he converted 36.5%.

Porter is elusive with his dribble, creating separation by tricking his matchup into going one way as he maneuvers to the other. He’s also a skilled bait artist who gets defenders in the air. With his proclivity to attack through pick-and-roll and having a reliable jump shot, he should torch drop coverage at the next level. And, while at JUCO, he operated in a different role, as an off-ball threat. He’s touted as a point guard but has combo skills.

In the pro game, the prospect could turn into a more threatening driver playing in a spacier interior.

Despite his short wingspan at 6-foot-4, Porter still contributes on defense. He’s got solid instincts to unsettle the passing lanes, and he harasses opponents on the break and in the halfcourt with chase downs too. Porter is the first player in Wichita State history to lead the squad in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, as Fedor expressed in his report.

When asked how many positions he can cover on the Draft Deeper Podcast, Porter said he can guard three to four. “Some of those dudes just [are] a little too tall.”

When ball handlers beat him, Porter doesn’t give up on the play and recovers decently, sometimes creating blocks at the elbow. As a helper, he rejects attempts, too, when challengers least expect it.

Eight other groups lurked around Porter because he is ready for instantaneous benefactions. Fedor reported that the Miami Heat was one of those teams he worked out for. As of today, the reigning Eastern Conference champs are likely the best in the league at developing talent. The Cavs made a savvy pickup and kept Porter away from them.

Next. Player comparisons for Cavaliers’ Emoni Bates. dark

Who says he can’t turn into an approximation of Marcus Smart defensively or a steady game manager on O? It’s now on the Cavs to unlock his potential on both sides.