Going into his rookie year with the Cleveland Cavaliers, nobody is expecting Craig Porter Jr. to have much of a role this season with the Wine and Gold. Porter is one of three players set to be on two-way contracts with Cleveland, and he likely won’t play a bunch of minutes with the Cavs.
In all likelihood, Porter will play for the most part in garbage time minutes with the Cavaliers, and will have his share of playing time with the Cleveland Charge, the Cavs’ G League affiliate squad.
Porter isn’t going to receive tons of minutes this coming season with the Cavaliers; he was undrafted and Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Caris LeVert and/or Isaac Okoro will be heavily involved. Ty Jerome was signed in the summer as backcourt depth, too, and at some point, Ricky Rubio could be back in the fold.
When it comes to the outlook involving Porter, he has the makings of a nice rotational option to have for stretches down the road, though, and could end up as an underrated two-way signing. The key with him is the all-around aspect, even for a 6-foot-2 player.
Porter was one of Cleveland’s standouts in Las Vegas Summer League, where he resembled a more veteran player in that setting, and impacted games in a number of ways.
In those contests, he averaged 12.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists, and shot 47.6 percent. He tacked on 0.8 steals and 0.8 blocks per game in those outings as well, and was a steadying player for a Cleveland Summer squad that won their first Summer League title, and went 6-0 in Vegas.
In the Cavaliers’ three preseason games thus far, Porter has had 7.3 points and 3.0 assists per outing, in what’s been 11.2 minutes per game of playing time. He hasn’t had nearly those Summer League splits, given the role limitations by comparison, but he has still made some heady plays, has gotten to the rim and free throw line and he’s made plays for his teammates.
To those points, down the road, whether or not they come this season partially because of injuries, possible Cavaliers minutes for Porter will likely come from him being to affect games in a multitude of ways.
As originally a JUCO product, Porter found his way as a role player first with Wichita State in his first two seasons there, and then became a featured guy as a playmaker and often go-to creator last season.
In the 2021-22 season, he had 7.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game, and also tallied 1.6 steals and 1.1 blocks per outing. He then followed that up with a season averaging 13.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game in 2022-23. Last season, Porter actually led the Shockers in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, which was nothing short of remarkable, let alone for a 6-foot-2 player.
Porter’s defensive instincts led to him making so many big plays for Wichita State, and his vertical explosion factored into his ridiculous shot blocking splits for a guard; he has a 40.5 inch vertical, as pointed out by Alex Kennedy of BasketballNews.com. As for that pop and body control at the other end, one shouldn’t sleep on his rim pressure, either.
This coming season with the Charge, Porter will benefit from reps to hone in on his offensive skills as a playmaker and creator, and his defense speaks for itself. But, if meaningful looks do possibly come for him with the Cavs, his athleticism and basketball IQ could help him make his presence felt in some minutes.
Porter hitting 36.3 percent of his three-point attempts last season could also lead to optimism about his shot-making potential for coming years, particularly with plenty of those being looks off the bounce. His pick-and-roll play and overall decision-making as a passer should only get better as well, which shouldn’t be discounted for some combo guard minutes.
Porter is an older prospect at 23, but even with the Emoni Bates hype as a two-way guy throughout preseason, fans shouldn’t gloss over what Porter could potentially do in the near future for the Cavs, either. The Wichita State product just knows how to play, and Porter’s combination of functional athleticism, two-way playmaking and basketball intellect will give him a real shot to make a name for himself in the NBA.