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Kevin Porter Jr. trades: Rockets take home-made turns at low risk as Cavaliers prioritize culture

Kevin Porter Jr. is being traded to the Houston Rockets, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. The Cleveland Cavaliers receive a protected second-round pick in the deal. Porter, the No. 30 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, spent his rookie season in Cleveland but had not played so far this season due to personal issues.

Porter initially dropped to No. 30 largely thanks to character issues. In August, he was accused of beating a woman, according to a report from Cleveland.com, and in November, he was arrested on suspicion of possessing a weapon and marijuana. Porter reportedly had an outburst after his closet was moved to another section of the locker room earlier this week, leading to Cleveland̵

7;s decision to either trade or release him.

Porter had a very promising rookie season. He averaged 10 points on 44 percent shooting, but pushed that score over 14 points per game over a stretch from late January to early March as he got more playing time. He did enough at the time for some to wonder if he, not No. 5 overall pick Darius Garland, was the right long-term backcourt partner for Collin Sexton in Cleveland.

Now he wants to join a suddenly crowded Rockets backcourt. The starting spots are currently occupied by John Wall and Victor Oladipo, and veteran Eric Gordon is also rooted. That leaves Porter to compete with players like Mason Jones, Ben McLemore and Danuel House in reserve minutes.

But Houston is unlikely to clash soon with James Harden, who now plays for the Brooklyn Nets. It is typically a wise step in such circumstances to take high-risk, high-reward swings on young people. On paper, this is the kind of move that the Rockets should make. We saw glimpses of his potential in Cleveland. Now the Rockets are hoping to find more consistent production out of the previous pick in the first round. Here’s how both teams ranked in the agreement.

Cleveland Cavaliers: C-

Ignoring the circumstances, this result is a complete disaster for Cleveland. The Cavs got 50 games out of Porter. They traded four picks from the second round and $ 5 million in cash to get the No. 30 pick and take him. Now they only have one choice left. Cleveland is not Oklahoma City or New Orleans. Koby Altman does not sit on top of a pile of assets that he can burn in his spare time. Losing all these choices to someone who would eventually have to be dumped is a meaningful loss.

But given where Cleveland is after a surprising 7-7 start through 14 games, it’s a justified loss. This is supposed to be a rebuilding season, and rebuilding seasons provide some patience. Last season the Cavs could have been able to work with Porter through his troubles. But with Garland and Sexton breaking out and a suddenly amazing defense, Cleveland seems to have prioritized culture over talent. It is a sensible choice. Garland, based on his play so far this season, has proven his place as a long-term starter in Cleveland. That made jettisoning Porter, regardless of his raw ability, an easier pill to swallow. The Cavs will not have guard assistance soon.

But accountability is universal, and now a young team has seen first-hand what happens when someone does not buy into the program. This is still a bad result for a young team that is still years away from true strife, but the Cavs managed to get the lemonade out of those lemons.

Houston Rockets: B +

We need to start with the obvious warning here. Portier’s situation is messy. The lack of demand for his services made sense given the allegations against him. That would have been enough to keep him away from several teams, and what happened in the locker room earlier in the week did not exactly help. This character is based solely on speed as a basketball transaction, and in that arena it is a wise addition.

Right now, Houston has a crowded backcourt. That could change quickly. The widespread belief around the league is that Victor Oladipo will leave the Rockets in free agency. If the rockets continue to scrub, they can easily turn him around by the deadline in a deal that brings more draft capital and opens minutes. If it really is the path that the Rockets are following, it would suggest a full-scale reconstruction over the next many seasons. That’s a wise move. Houston controls its first round in 2022 and 2023, but does not in 2024, 2025 or 2026. The rockets are encouraged to be as bad as possible in the two-year window, so when they start sending elections to the Thunder, they have their long-term core in place.

A good way to be bad is to spend minutes developing young players. Players with Portiers upward are rarely available for the price Houston paid. In an ideal world, he would struggle through his growing pains over the next few seasons and grow into someone capable of helping the Rockets win when the Thunder start charging their debts. There is no guarantee that he will ever overcome the problems that Cleveland traded him over, but for a protected second-round pick, Houston does not need him. They can cut him by having invested very little if the need should arise.

The Rockets are not exactly the picture of stability right now, but James Harden is gone. They can theoretically transition to a period of relative normalcy now that he is back, and swinging at talented youngsters is something that normal rebuilding teams do. Porter could have benefited from a stronger culture, but if the teams that could provide such an environment were interested, he would probably play for one right now. Houston was the team that wanted him. It indicates a willingness to provide the necessary commitment to his growth, and given the playing time likely to be available soon, it is a chance for something of a clean start on a team with low expectations. That’s about as much as Porter can ask for right now.

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