It was only about a month ago when ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford said the Cavs were “praying” Otto Porter Jr. would be available when they were on the clock. Now that the NBA Draft is less than a week away, Porter seems to be an afterthought.
The former Georgetown star remains in discussion for the top overall pick, but the Cavs aren’t on bended knees at night praying for his arrival. He’s a polished small forward with good size (6-foot-8, 198 pounds) and great length (7-1 wingspan). Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim called him the greatest small forward to ever play in the Big East, but there are concerns Porter is who he is. There may not be much left between the player he is now and his actual NBA ceiling.
The player he is now is pretty good. Porter averaged 16.2 points and 7.1 rebounds to win Big East Player of the Year honors as a sophomore. He fills an immediate need on the Cavs at small forward and is likely the only player from the crop the Cavs are considering who would start immediately.
Alonzo Gee looked overmatched much of last season as the starting small forward. Even if the Cavaliers pass on Porter with their top pick, they must address the small forward position at some point this summer.
They did not speak with Porter at the predraft workouts last month, but had him in for a workout last week along with Kansas’ Ben McLemore and Indiana’s Victor Oladipo. Porter said at the predraft workouts he modeled himself after the Memphis Grizzlies’ Tayshaun Prince — long and lanky with the ability to do a little bit of everything — which inadvertently illustrates this draft class perfectly.
Prince is a nice player who carved a fine career for himself, and even won a championship with the Detroit Pistons, but he’s hardly worthy of being the top pick in a draft. Yet the Cavs are forced to consider Porter at the top because of their need for a small forward and the overall lack of talent at the top of the draft. One league executive described this draft as a collection of players who would go third or fourth overall, at best, most other years. This is considered a draft of role players.
In Porter, the Cavs would be getting a self-thinker who dismissed the crowd and took his own path to the NBA. While most everyone in the NBA today played AAU basketball as children, Porter avoided that often-shady circuit.
Washington Wizards phenom Bradley Beal tried recruiting Porter to play on the same AAU team as he and McLemore, another top prospect in this draft, but Porter declined.
“I think it was an advantage to me. I stayed home and worked on my skills a lot more,” Porter said. “I had cousins and friends that played AAU. I figured I could just stay home and work on my game and the exposure would come later when teams could see I can play and I had talent.”
They’re figuring it out now. If the Cavs pass on Porter, Beal may finally get that chance to play with him. Porter would appear to be a terrific running mate with Beal and John Wall in Washington, giving the Wizards a point guard, shooting guard and small forward selected within the top three picks over the last four years.
Cavs executives are holding meetings over the weekend to discuss their options, with the hope of finagling their draft board by the start of the week. There remains a chance they could trade the pick, but the overwhelming belief is the Cavs will stay right where they are and take the player at the top of their draft board.
It might be Porter. They drafted another small forward at No. 1 overall 10 years ago, but no one is confusing Porter with LeBron James.
“This draft class, they said there’s no Kevin Durant or LeBron James,” Porter said. “So there’s a big window open.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.