How Craig Porter, Jr. earned new deal as surprise steal for Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers v Miami Heat
Cleveland Cavaliers v Miami Heat / Rich Storry/GettyImages

News broke late on Tuesday night that the Cleveland Cavaliers were converting their undrafted rookie Craig Porter, Jr. from a two-way contract to a four-year deal.

The Cavs have two rookies on a two-way contract this season. One of those rookies is Emoni Bates, the 2023 2nd Round Draft Pick. In the G League, Bates has averaged 21.6 points per game this year and was named to the 2024 NBA G League Next-Up Game.

The other less lauded, but possibly more NBA-ready rookie is Craig Porter, Jr. The young guard was signed by the Cavaliers to a two-way contract in July of last year after going undrafted. CPJ was a 3-year Varsity Letterwinner at Wichita State and joined Cleveland as a seasoned 23-year-old prospect. Porter Jr. impressed the organization in his first season with the Wine & Gold and subsequently, they rewarded him with a multi-year contract.

Since Porter's counting stats do not jump out of a box score, many spectators outside of Ohio might feel bewildered to see long-term commitment in a low-production player who is already nearing their mid-twenties. The Cleveland faithful and Cavaliers organization saw Porter emerge as a legitimate backup guard, though, and were smart to add him to their roster for the coming years.

As we have covered here at King James Gospel, Craig Porter, Jr. has impacted the Cavaliers ever since he stepped on the court this season. CPJ has a great feel for the game and an excellent sense of getting into the paint to get shots for himself or others. His change of speeds, both acceleration and deceleration allows Porter to create either from the wing or from pick-and-roll actions.

In his eighth NBA game, Porter attacked the paint against the defending NBA Champs Denver Nuggets. He shot 7-of-10 from the field and 7-for-7 from the free-throw line. CPJ ended the contest with a career-high 21 points and led the Cavs to a 121-109 win in the mile-high city. A couple of nights later, he would again lead the Cavs with his play at the Philadelphia. Porter went 5-for-9 for 12 points along with nine assists to help the Cavs win 122-119 in overtime against the 76ers. The Cavaliers as a team would have 68 of their points come in the paint (thanks in part to Porter's penetration).

Still, the rookie has not been a consistent fixture in JB Bickerstaff's rotation this season. There are a couple of reasons for that. Since Porter Jr is on a two-way contract, the Cavs can only play players on these contracts for a total of 50 games across all three two-way players. Second, the Cavaliers have Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, and Caris LeVert who can all be the primary ball handlers for offensive sets. Most of Porter's opportunities have come when those players have missed time.

The one game that added to the CPJ mythology was right before Christmas when the Cavs traveled to Chicago. That night Cleveland was missing Garland, Mitchell, Mobley, LeVert, Jerome and Rubio. Amid the epidemic of missing players, Porter had 19 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds and a +14 plus/minus in a 109-95 win. The Cavaliers had found themselves a diamond in the rough.

Rumors had been thrown around about Craig Porter, Jr signing a full-time contract since December of last year. Unfortunately, there had been nothing said from the Cavaliers front office on the matter. The trade deadline came and went on February 8, and the Cavaliers were not participants.

The buyout market also is currently ongoing, and since the Cavs have two open roster spots, this seemed like a possibility. Thus far, the Cavs have stayed silent here, too. The Cavaliers organization may have instead believed Porter could be something special for the team's future and could not miss out on the chance to retain him and his skill set. And boy, do they believe in CPJ. The 4-year deal shows that they believe that he will be a part of the plans now and in the future.

Alongside Porter's surprise heroics during Cleveland's injury rut, the seasoned rookie has also developed a pivotal part in the Cavs' culture. He has stayed excited for his teammates even in the lengthy stretches in which he does not see the court. His attitude both on the hardwood and off of it earned Porter every year on his contract.

2 players the Cleveland Cavaliers missed out on at trade deadline. 2 players the Cleveland Cavaliers missed out on at trade deadline. dark. Next