CHICAGO: When he was asked to name the NBA teams he felt were the best fit for him, Otto Porter Jr. never hesitated in mentioning the Cavaliers. In fact, it was the first team out of his mouth. Yet he won’t be meeting with General Manager Chris Grant or anyone from the team’s traveling party during this week’s NBA combine.
That’s mildly surprising, but it doesn’t mean the Cavs aren’t interested in the small forward from Georgetown. The player Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim praised as the best small forward in Big East history is still very much on the Cavs’ radar, but Porter was still quick to notice the Cavs were missing from his itinerary.
“That’s interesting,” Porter said. “I guess in talking to my agent [David Falk], maybe that’s a good thing and maybe it’s bad. We don’t know yet.”
Teams submit three lists of players they’d like to speak with during the 30-minute interview slots at this week’s combine — an A list, B list and C list. Team executives, however, aren’t guaranteed to meet with all the players on their lists — even those on the A list. Porter was on the Cavs’ submitted list, a source confirmed, but he wasn’t one of the nine players the Cavs met with Thursday and he isn’t on the list for today, either.
The Cavs still have plenty of time to talk with Porter as they presumably will bring him to Cleveland Clinic Courts for a private workout in the coming weeks, although those haven’t been scheduled yet. The Cavs typically put more of an emphasis on the interview process than most teams, although they took Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller last summer without working out or speaking to either.
Waiters was unavailable because his agent pulled him from the draft process. The Cavs didn’t talk to Zeller because they weren’t in a position to take him until trading up on draft night.
Porter was named the Big East Player of the Year and plays the one position the Cavs haven’t addressed in the first round of this rebuild. He averaged 16.2 points and 7.5 rebounds for the Hoyas, leading to Boeheim’s startling proclamation that Porter was the best small forward he’d ever seen from one of the country’s most talent-rich conferences.
The most surprising part of the statement was Boeheim’s apparent snub of Carmelo Anthony, whom he coached for one season at Syracuse and who is now one of the NBA’s top scorers.
“That was a great compliment by him. I never would’ve thought I’d be something like that,” Porter said. “That describes the type of person he is that he knows talent and he knows basketball. It was the ultimate compliment.”
Porter would clearly fill the Cavs’ most glaring need and would serve as a significant upgrade over Alonzo Gee, but it isn’t a lock they draft him regardless of how many mock drafts insist he is their top target. The Cavs, slotted to select third entering next week’s draft lottery, shocked the league each of the last two years with their selections of Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters with the fourth pick in each draft.
Right about this time last year, draft analysts were convinced the Cavaliers would select Harrison Barnes. Instead, they chose Waiters. Now the popular pick is Porter.
“I’m pretty sure the Cavs are praying right now that Otto Porter is there on the board when they draft,’’ ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford said this week. “He is a perfect fit for them. And if he’s off the board, I do think there is a question mark there. I think [small forward] is the position they need the most.”
Porter made it clear he’d like to play for the Cavs and Falk reassured him that just because the two sides won’t meet this week in Chicago doesn’t mean there isn’t a future between the pair.
“I had a long talk with my agent,” Porter said. “He told me if [the Cavs] wanted to, that could be a great possibility.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. 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.