It’s been nearly a year since we last saw Jontay Porter play in an official game. To be exact, his last outing was on March 16, 2018 vs. Florida State, as Porter and his Missouri teammates were knocked out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Porter reclassified to play with his more highly touted brother Michael at Mizzou, and despite being a very young freshman, he performed admirably. He shared the SEC Sixth Man of the Year Award, averaging 9.9 points per game and ranking sixth in the conference in rebounding with 6.8 boards per game and ninth in blocks with 1.7 per game.
To get a sense of what Porter can do, check out some of his freshman highlights that were put together by our friends at Next Ones:
Following the season finale, both Porter brothers applied for early entry into the 2018 NBA Draft. Heading into the 2018 NBA Combine, Jontay was generally considered to be a first-round pick. However, his athletic testing results and his measurements at the event were very disappointing. Porter posted the slowest 3-quarter court sprint, tied for last in max vertical, and finished near the bottom in both lane agility and standing vertical. He also had the highest body fat percentage (13.85%), while his wingspan exceeded his height by less than two inches. Porter also didn’t ease any concerns by skipping the 5-on-5 scrimmages.
On May 30, the final day to withdraw from the draft, Missouri Athletics announced that Porter would be returning for his sophomore season. It is unclear if Porter withdrew because he was told by NBA executives that he would not be taken in the first round, but it is safe to say that they told him that he needed to improve in a number of areas, including his physical conditioning. Even before the combine, Porter knew that his conditioning was an issue, and during his freshman season at Mizzou, he began to work on changing his body in the weight room. As C.J. Moore detailed for The Athletic, Porter began last summer determined to reshape his body and to improve his game.
On October 21, Porter’s plans and progress were halted. He tore the ACL and the MCL in his right knee during a “secret” scrimmage against Southern Illinois and was lost for the season. In an article in the Kansas City Star that details the season-ending blow, the authors note that the Porter family has been plagued by injuries, including Porter’s two eldest sisters, who had their college basketball careers cut short by knee injuries, and Michael, who slipped out of the lottery in the 2018 NBA draft due to multiple back injuries. Surprisingly, Jontay’s draft stock doesn’t appear to have taken a huge hit, as he is being projected to be go somewhere in the middle of the first round in the 2019 draft. Of course, if he does go that high, it will likely be due to the lack of depth in this year’s draft class more than any progress that Porter has made as a basketball player.
|Wingspan:||7-0||Vertical:||25.5″ standing, 31″ max|
|Dom Hand:||Left||Stats:||Click here|
- Quick, efficient shooting motion, and reliably knocks down shots from midrange and beyond (as a freshman, ranked at the 88th percentile as an overall jump shooter, shot 36.4% from the 3-point line, and made 75% of his free-throws)
- Excellent potential as a pick-and-pop player
- Solid passer, rebounder, and shot blocker
- Smart and fundamentally sound
- Young for a sophomore
- Not a great athlete and lacks a large wingspan, which presents problems on both ends of the court
- Loose handle and limited ability to make plays off the dribble
- Not overly effective around the basket
- Struggled against top competition
- Recovering from a serious knee injury
Nearly 62 percent of Porter’s touches in his freshman season came from either spot-up, pick-and-roll, or post-up plays, and they all rolled into one. The left-hander spent a vast majority of his time floating around the court, setting solid screens everywhere (typically on the perimeter), and from that, his offense flowed. He displayed an excellent sense of how to make himself available after the pick, anticipating how the plays would develop and observing how the defenders were reacting. After the pick, he would usually do one of two things: find an open spot beyond the 3-point line, or slip into the post and establish position for an entry pass. What he didn’t do very often was roll to the basket. The impressive aspect of this approach was how often he either created a wide-open opportunity for a 3, or created a mismatch in the post vs. a smaller player.
Porter’s post game is fairly basic and predictable at this point. He almost always turns with his right shoulder to set up shots such as a left-hand hook or short drives to the basket. He will occasionally throw in up-and-under moves and turnaround jumpers. In his freshman season, he made a respectable 19 of his 35 post-up shots (54.3%) and ranked at the 68th percentile in terms of points per possession, but he also had a high turnover percentage on post possessions (31.9%).
Porter’s shots in the post as a freshman were dwarfed by his spot-up and pick-and-pop attempts (120 combined). As a spot-up player, he averaged a respectable .94 points per possession (54th percentile), and as a pick-and-pop option, he did even better, averaging 1.05 PPP (72nd percentile). What made Porter effective in these areas was his efficient shooting technique and good shot selection. He’s ready to shoot on the catch, and there is no wasted motion or hesitation leading up to the release – it’s catch, rise, and shoot in one smooth motion. He still has room for improvement, however, as he does have his share of cold streaks, and on those occasions, his shot often looks a bit flat.
Porter also displays nice vision and good decision-making skills as a passer. From areas like the post, he makes quick reads and snaps the ball to open teammates. As a freshman, he averaged 1.22 points plus assists per possession, which ranked at the 78th percentile, and he had a very respectable assist-turnover ratio of 1.17 for a big man.
The rest of Porter’s game leaves a lot to be desired. He is basically a grounded player and a stationary jump shooter and passer. A lack of vertical explosiveness and an inability to effectively absorb contact makes it difficult for him to finish. At the same time, he lacks the ball handling, speed and quickness to make a lot of plays off the bounce. Around the basket as a freshman, not including post-ups, he made less than 45 percent of his shots and ranked at the 18th percentile in terms of points per possession. On put-backs (28th), cuts (48th), and in transition (9th), he was also below average in terms of points per possession. Jump shots accounted for nearly 53 percent of all of his shots, and 96 percent of them came while standing (no dribble). He took just 26 shots combined via isolation and spot-up plays off the dribble (such as driving on a closeout), making only 10 (38.5%).
It also should be noted that Porter’s value seems to be more as an offensive player than anything else, and when he faced tall and physical teams with NBA-like defenders, he struggled immensely. In two games vs. Kentucky, two vs. Texas A&M, and one each vs. Florida State, Tennessee, and West Virginia, Porter shot a combined 16-of-56 from the field (28.6%).
On defense, Porter is a bit of a mixed bag. His effort is pretty good, and his physicality is not bad. His lack of overall athleticism hurts him, but he is fairly light on his feet and moves well laterally. He plays fundamentally sound team defense and often has good positioning, but he is certainly not immune to being late on rotations and closeouts. He generally plays with a non-aggressive style, and yet he picks up a lot of unnecessary fouls. He can block shots (1.7 per game) when opponents go right at him, but he doesn’t get many blocks from the weakside. According to Synergy, Porter ranked at the 65th percentile overall for points per possession allowed, spending most of his time defending post-up (83rd percentile for PPPA) and spot-up (43rd percentile for PPPA) plays.
In his freshman year at Missouri, Porter was asked to play a lot of man-to-man defense, which meant that his skills defending the pick and roll were tested. Due to Porter (who likes to reach in) and other Mizzou big men picking up a lot of fouls 20-plus feet away from the basket, the Tigers had their bigs do a lot of “dropping” as the season progressed, as opposed to hard hedging or a switching. This strategy worked for the most part for Porter, who displayed the ability to block the path of the ball handler while not losing complete touch with the roller, essentially guarding two players at once and forcing the ball to go in a different direction. Of course, good midrange shooters could take advantage of this strategy by simply pulling up and shooting, and defending the pick and pop could be problematic as well. When Porter did switch or hedge, he was generally effective, making good use of his surprising lateral quickness.
Most of Porter’s defensive issues seem to involve his lack of speed, length, vertical, and aggressiveness. He tends to sag off his man quite a bit, on and off the ball, and he often doesn’t have the closing speed to recover in time to effectively contest jumpers. He basically asks opponents to shoot, and they usually oblige. Of course, if he played tighter on shooters, they might abuse him off the bounce. He also is not overly effective as a help defender because he can’t cover a lot of ground quickly, and he doesn’t like to challenge shots outside of his immediate area. And as a rebounder, he mainly gets by due to his height, but he often loses battles to players who jump higher and quicker, which is why he had a modest rebounding percentage of 16.04 in 2017-18 (ranked 128th in NCAA DI).
Intangibles and Miscellaneous
Most of the intangibles involving Porter have to do with his genetics and family. For starters, he is fundamentally sound due to growing up in a large basketball family, including his mother, who averaged nearly 60 points per game as a high school senior, his father, who is an assistant coach for Missouri’s men’s basketball team, and his aunt, who is head coach of Missouri’s women’s team. And then there is his brother, Michael Jr., who was in the conversation to be the top overall pick in the 2018 draft before suffering a back injury. When healthy, Michael is clearly a more dynamic and athletic player than Jontay, but given that the latter is only 19, there is still hope for him to develop into a more well-rounded player. However, as noted above, the Porter siblings have been plagued by injuries, leaving many wondering if Jontay’s current knee injury is a sign of things to come.
The first that comes to mind when you think about Porter’s draft stock is, “What has changed?” Last year, he didn’t measure up athletically and physically, and being sidelined for all of this season with a serious knee injury is not going to help him in that respect. When we last saw him, he was a mainly a pick-and-pop and spot-up guy, who lacked the ball handling, speed, quickness, and vertical to do much else. He also had his limitations on the defensive end of the court. Even so, he was generally considered a first-round pick because of his age and potential. Now, he is another year older, injured, and hasn’t been able to show that his game has developed.
I suppose that if Porter is a faster healer, he might be able to do some type of workouts for NBA teams in May, but it is highly unlikely that he would be 100 percent. It seems more probable that he will have to be evaluated mostly based on what we knew about him in May of 2018. With that said, I believe that there are two critical questions NBA execs will be considering: 1) if he improved his strength and conditioning, how much would he improve as a player, and 2) is he going to be injury prone?
At the end of last season, I did not envision Porter becoming a dynamic player similar to his brother, Michael. Instead, I envisioned him becoming a player similar to Moe Wagner in a couple of years, which made Porter worthy of a late first-round pick in my opinion. Now, he is a year older and injured, and we have to assume that his game is about the same. Assuming that Porter does enter the 2019 NBA Draft, it would seem that where he is selected will be mainly determined by what the other borderline first-round prospects do between now and June.
UPDATE: On March 23, it was reported that Porter tore the same ACL that he injured in October of 2018, further hurting his draft stock.
Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements: Stats used in our scouting reports mainly come from Synergy Sports and RealGM, and occasionally from Hoop-Math.com and Sports Reference. Photo is courtesy of Missouri Athletics.