Craig Porter should be called up to Cavaliers to replace Ricky Rubio

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) /

On August 5, veteran point guard Ricky Rubio announced that he is stepping away from professional basketball to prioritize his mental health and family life. While the Cavaliers fanbase will severely miss Rubio’s presence in Cleveland, for the time being, he will be absent from the public eye.

Since his announcement, Rubio has thankfully been given respect for his privacy. There is no timetable for his return. Last year after his season-ending injury, the Spanish veteran told the media his playing days were not far from over in favor of spending time with his family once his son started school.

With this in mind, Rubio’s departure might be the start of his next chapter in life after the NBA.

Either way, the Cavs will be searching for a replacement at the backup point guard spot for the upcoming season. While both Ty Jerome and Caris LeVert have managed a fair share of playmaking duties throughout their careers, there is no guarantee they could maintain a high level of offensive orchestration for an entire season.

Secondly, Cleveland may stagger point guard minutes between Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell. With so many options at hand, spending high for a bench unit leader would probably be wasteful for a team inching toward the Luxury Tax threshold.

The Cavs have another route that does not require trade or free agent discussions. A backup point guard would not have a strenuous role on the team, which suggests the Cavaliers can use that roster spot for a project player with a high upside.

Craig Porter Jr. deserves a chance to be Cleveland’s secondary PG

During the 2023 Summer League, undrafted rookie point guard Craig Porter Jr. provided the Cavs summer roster with the perfect backcourt composer. Entering the 2023 NBA Draft, Porter Jr. was a 23-year-old prospect from Wichita State where he averaged 13.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists in his last season there.

Standing at only 6 foot 2 inches, Porter’s ability to secure boards is the first indication of his tenacious playstyle. He brought that with him to Vegas, and he should get the opportunity to do so with the Cavs’ main roster.

Rubio provided creative passing and aggressive backcourt defense. This summer showed Porter has that same mentality and value.

In Summer League, the young prospect scored 12 points per game accompanied by 5.3 assists and 7.2 rebounds. Once again, remember that a 6-foot-2-inch point guard grabbed more than 7 rebounds a game against NBA-level talent. For reference, both Garland and Mitchell are 6-foot-1-inch tall.

Admittedly, Porter’s greatest weakness offensively was his long-range shooting, only hitting a dramatically low 11.5 percent of 3-point attempts in the Las Vegas championship run. Thankfully, the additions Cleveland made this summer can cover for lackluster shooting.

Porter’s value is similar to what Matthew Dellavedova brought the Cavs in his tenure. While Delly was never an All-Star or knockdown shooter, his relentless nature often provided the Cavaliers with the energetic boost needed to push toward victory. These qualities and team-first mentality have cemented Delly as a Cleveland all-time favorite role player.

While Porter’s overall playstyle is not identical to the former Cav, the role he could fill in Cleveland would require a similar level of buy-in on his part. His showing in Vegas proves that he is willing to make that commitment.

Throughout the Cavaliers’ quest for their first Summer League championship, Craig Porter Jr. orchestrated the team’s offense masterfully and became the starting point guard halfway through their campaign.

Currently, Porter is one of three players on a two-way deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Both Summer League Finals MVP Isaiah Mobley and potential draft steal Emoni “Money Moni” Bates earned a similar contract.

With this contract, Porter can play for the Cavaliers in a sizable minority of legitimate NBA games this regular season. Unless the Cavs find an undeniably perfect replacement for Rubio before their October season opener, the undrafted prospect could easily earn a chance to work his way into a full roster spot this year.

This is not to say that Cleveland will rely on Porter to carry them to the NBA Finals. In the Playoffs, Porter would rarely see any time on the court. But, his availability during a lengthy regular season could allow the Cavs’ backcourt rotation to remain fresh and healthy throughout rough stretches.

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Surely, the Cavaliers’ front office realizes the value Porter could possibly provide. A two-way contract effectively serves as a proving ground for their viability in the Association. Porter has that stage under his feet right now, and if he can continue on his current path, Cleveland could have a truly remarkable gem in their ranks that somehow slipped through the cracks on Draft Night.