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Why Kevin Porter Jr Can Be a League Winner (2021 Fantasy Basketball)

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Mar 10, 2021

The All-Star Break ends Wednesday as teams get back to action, and with the fantasy basketball season coming down the home stretch, you should be stacking your bench with high-upside players who can give you a competitive edge over the rest of your league for the fantasy playoffs. One such player is Kevin Porter Jr., a guy I’ve planted my flag on over the last couple of weeks and someone I can’t quit hyping up. Could he be a fantasy basketball league-winner for the rest of the season? For me, it’s a resounding yes, and I’m here to tell you why.

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Who is He?

Kevin Porter Jr. was a five-star recruit out of high school who was considered a likely lottery pick before his 2018-19 season with USC. While with the Trojans, he was suspended for over a third of the team’s games for a “conduct issue” and was never given the playing time to fully show off his talents and keep his elite draft pedigree. Due to concerns about his character and a largely disappointing freshman season, KPJ fell to the last pick in the first round of the draft and wound up with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

As a rookie in 2019-20, Porter logged 23.2 minutes per game and turned them into 10.0 points, 3.2 boards, 2.2 dimes, and 1.1 threes. In games in which he saw at least 30 minutes of action, his numbers were a bit more impressive: 16.9 points, 4.5 boards, 3.1 dimes, 2.0 threes, and 1.3 swipes. That included a career-best 30 points in a come-from-behind victory over Miami in which the Cavs erased a 22-point deficit. His 30 points off the bench were the third-most ever by a Cavs’ rookie.

He finished the season with three games of at least 20 points, splashing at least four threes in all of them. He’s known for his one-on-one abilities and smooth step-back jumper, which he’s flashed in his lone NBA season and his G-League play.

Opportunity Abounds

According to NBA.com, Houston plays with the sixth-highest pace in the NBA right now (plenty of possessions to pile up stats), but the team is in the bottom-five in offensive rating. The team’s defense hasn’t been too bad, but with the offense sputtering, Houston is in the bottom-five in the Association in net rating at (-4.7). This means that the Rockets are desperate with a capital ‘D’ for playmakers, and Porter Jr. fits that mold.

According to Bleacher Report, “NBA Executives expect a fire sale from Houston by the trade deadline,” and the team has already waived promising youngster Mason Jones.

The team was able to unload Russell Westbrook in a swap for John Wall, who has played relatively well this season, all things considered. The future of the team got dicey when franchise superstar James Harden was traded to the Nets, but Victor Oladipo was expected to keep the team competitive this season. He and Wall’s constant fluctuation in and out of the lineup have been problematic for the team, but the death knell to any postseason hopes came when Christian Wood injured his ankle. The team lost 13 straight since Wood left the lineup and Houston sits with the third-worst record in the NBA at a putrid 11-23. Houston would be smart to trade some of its assets in the hopes of rebuilding for the future. DeMarcus Cousins is gone. P.J. Tucker is on his way out. Oladipo has already turned down an early extension, and he may not want to stick around in H-Town following the season. The Rockets would be smart to get something for him before he leaves in free agency for nothing. The two-way star has been linked to plenty of trade rumors as of late, including the Golden State Warriors, who will likely be buyers at the deadline.

Until Houston actually makes good on rumors of the “fire sale,” KPJ isn’t going to have many opportunities, right? Maybe not. Eric Gordon and Danuel House are both dealing with lingering knee injuries, and both will be out at least through Wednesday’s matchup with the Nets. That means that Porter Jr.’s biggest competition for wing minutes behind Victor Oladipo will likely be Sterling Brown or Ben McLemore. Even though he won’t be an immediate starter, don’t count on Porter Jr. being a bench warmer. Given injuries to the team and current roster construction, he has the chance to carve out a meaningful role right away, meaning he won’t be just taking up space on your fantasy roster.

Houston gave up next to nothing to acquire Porter Jr. back in January after Cleveland quickly traded him due to conduct issues, but the Rockets clearly saw something they liked and were willing to take a chance. Houston has also called up Kenyon Martin from the G-League and signed Anthony Lamb to a two-way deal, potentially the first step in the process of moving on from older or more expensive players and beginning a total rebuild.

What’s He Been Up To?

Porter Jr. didn’t appear in a single game for Cleveland this season before being traded, but what has he been up to since then? Not much… except leading the G-League in scoring while posting some eye-popping stats. G-League stats can be inflated due to lesser competition, and while his numbers don’t mean everything, they certainly mean something, as Porter Jr. should be in contention for G-League MVP.

In his short G-League stint, Porter Jr. has proved that he can be a team’s leading scorer and distributor. His shooting hasn’t been overly impressive, but the rest of his numbers show he can succeed if given a prominent role:

MIN PTS FGM FGA FG% 3PM 3P% FTM FTA FT% REB AST STL BLK TOV
36 24.1 8.6 19.2 44.8 2.6 32 2.6 3.3 78 6.5 7.2 1.5 0.4 4.7


The tremendous G-League play is proof that Porter Jr. is still a highly-talented player with the tools to succeed at the highest levels of play. The sky is the limit if he’s given a featured role on a rebuilding team that’s struggling to score points. This isn’t all sunshine and roses. KPJ was a turnover machine in G-League play, and his three-ball was far from deadly, but the upside is certainly there.

Conclusion

Currently, Porter Jr. is rostered in just 24% of Yahoo leagues, a jump of 15% since he was brought up from the G-League last week. He’s widely available, and if you’re looking for upside for the fantasy playoff push, look no further. He’s not likely to single-handedly win you your weeks, and there’s still a chance his play and his role provide less-than-thrilling returns. Concerns about his character have got to be on fantasy managers’ minds as well. Porter Jr. isn’t a slam dunk, but he’s dripping with talent, opportunity, and upside in lethal doses you won’t find anywhere else on the waiver wire this late in the season.

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Zachary Hanshew is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Zachary, check out his archive and follow him @zakthemonster.