After trading for his draft rights in 2019 and viewing him as a franchise cornerstone, the Cleveland Cavaliers are moving on from Kevin Porter Jr.. Porter has yet to play this season due to personal issues. On Friday, the night he joined his teammates and made a positive stride toward returning, Porter grew angry when he entered the locker room and realized the team gave his old locker to new arrival Taurean Prince, who was acquired in the James Harden trade Wednesday. That outburst led to general manager Koby Altman and J.B. Bickerstaff entering the locker room to talk with Porter – who didn’t cool down.
After trying to help Porter get his life back together the last few months off the court and then starting to reintegrate him into the team by welcoming him to practice on Thursday before he joined his teammates on the bench one night later against the New York Knicks, the Cavaliers have spent the last few days fielding offers — and will continue to explore the trade market for him. If they can’t find a deal soon, Porter will be released, sources say.
“It’s for the best,” said one Western Conference executive. “Cleveland is at no fault here in how they handled Porter’s situation. They were incredibly patient with him while trying to help him with his off the court issues. Not many teams are willing to go through that for a player – especially one picked at the end of the first round.”
The reason Cleveland was willing to go through such lengths for Porter was because they believed in his talent. During the pre-draft process, Altman and his staff viewed Porter as a top talent in the 2019 draft class. But, maturity concerns during his time at Southern California caused him to slip down the draft board. That’s how Porter ended up being available at the thirtieth pick, and how the Cavaliers were able to send four second-round picks and cash considerations to the Detroit Pistons in order to obtain him.
Those same maturity concerns have carried with Porter to Cleveland.
In August, Porter was accused of punching a woman in the face during an altercation that took place in downtown Cleveland in August. According to a report from the Cleveland Police, a 26-year-old woman and 19-year-old woman said they were leaving an apartment unit when Porter and his sister, who is not named in the report, approached them. As Porter’s sister and the 26-year-old exchanged words, Porter’s sister allegedly swung and punched the 26-year-old in the face. At the same time, Porter is alleged to have thrown a drink in the face of the 19-year-old before ripping her wig off and punching her in the left side of her face, which caused slight swelling that was visible at the time the police report was taken. As of this story, Porter has not yet been charged in the matter.
Leading up to Cleveland’s training camp, Porter was arrested outside of Youngstown on a weapons charge after he rolled over his 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE on the highway and officers found a loaded .45-caliber handgun and suspected marijuana were located in the vehicle. The 20-year-old Porter was arrested and charged with improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle, along with failure to control and misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Both charges were later dropped against Porter.
During the first day of training camp, Bickerstaff said his belief in Porter hadn’t diminished after calling him a franchise cornerstone the year before.
“Not at all,” Bickerstaff said. “We’re in the human being business. And no matter what our ups and downs are, our responsibility is to look out for one another and take care of one another and try to help one another as best we possibly can. And we’ll continue to do that.
“We won’t give up on anybody. We’ll continue to give people the best opportunity to make themselves into the best version of themselves that we possibly can until you leave that door, and even then we’ll maintain relationships with you and try to help you if we ever possibly can. We’re all in on all of our guys. That won’t change.
“We have high interest in human beings and not just basketball players, so we do what we can to make sure that guys are growing, guys are maturing and guys are becoming what we expect them to be and reach their potential, not just as basketball players, but as people. We’ll continue to work with all of our guys in that direction.”
Fast forward to now, and it seems the Cavaliers and Porter have reached the point of no return – despite what Bickerstaff, his teammates and others have said in support of him publicly. It’s been one step forward and then a few steps back for Porter. He hasn’t been able to string together enough good days in a row. At this point, there’s a collective fatigue in dealing with Porter for Cleveland and his latest blowup on Friday night was a tipping point in a culmination of so many other things.
So it’s for the best for Cleveland and Porter to go their separate ways. It’s going to be tough for the Cavaliers to find interested suitors for him though. While his latest outburst has become public knowledge, organizations around the league have been keeping tabs on Porter from the moment he declared interest in the league. Cleveland could try and package Porter with either JaVale McGee or Andre Drummond, who both became expendable with the arrival of Jarrett Allen, but, it still could be tough to trade the troubled swingman. That means the Cavaliers will more than likely release Porter and he in turn will try and sign with a team in free agency.
If that were to happen, Porter needs to land with an organization that has a strong cultural foundation and veteran leadership that can pick up where Cleveland left off in helping him off the court. Because of this, teams like the Miami Heat, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers all make sense for Porter. It’s a shame it wasn’t able to work out in Cleveland, though. Porter showed true flashes of potential for the Cavaliers and looked like a draft steal for the organization. Hopefully being traded or released puts things into perspective for Porter and that he grows and matures from this for his new team.