After last week’s NBA Draft Lottery, in which the New Orleans Pelicans improbably came away with the first overall pick, teams are turning their attention toward whom — not where — they’ll be picking.
The NBA Draft Combine, which took place Wednesday through Sunday night, served as a platform for draft prospects to showcase their talent to teams across the league — whether to establish themselves as a top pick or to convince teams to take a chance on them at the back end of the draft.
USC has two players with a reasonable chance of being selected in the NBA Draft June 20.
One-and-done guard Kevin Porter Jr., who is leaving USC after his freshman year, is predicted to fall somewhere in the middle of the first round, with the potential to become a lottery pick in the first round’s top 14.
“[Porter] is really talented,” ESPN NBA Draft expert Mike Schmitz said. “I think he’s one of the more talented scorers in the draft, if you’re looking at sheer talent.”
Porter had a chance to show off his top-tier scoring potential at the Draft Combine over the weekend. He reportedly met with at least 15 different NBA teams during the event.
However, Porter’s scoring ability is not the focus of the buzz surrounding his draft stock and potential landing spots, however. After being scrutinized throughout his year at USC for his immaturity and for a midseason suspension due to “conduct issues,” teams will try to assess Porter’s character before taking a chance on the promising shooting guard.
“For him, it’s about the interview process, answering why he had such an uneven season at USC, why he got suspended, why he wasn’t able to show much consistency,” Schmitz said. “That’s what teams want to figure out about him, because some days he looks like a top-five pick, and some days he looks like a guy that you don’t want to invest your draft pick in.”
Porter seemed to understand the speculation surrounding his character at the Combine and pointedly attempted to ease those concerns.
“I have a lot of growth left,” Porter said to reporters when asked about expectations surrounding his maturity in the NBA. “I feel like everything that happened, and all the things I’ve been through in my life, I’ve been growing as a person. I’ve been improving all my life … I’ve got to show my character and everything so [teams] can trust me. As a player and off the court.”
Despite concerns over Porter’s conduct, he remains one of the better players in the draft. ESPN lists Porter as the 14th best player available.
Porter, for one, seems not to have lost any confidence, even after a rocky season as a Trojan.
“A lot of people say I’m one of the most talented players in the draft, but they have a lot of problems with my character,” Porter said. “Before everything that happened, I was considered a top-five [pick]. I feel like I’m still a top-five [pick].”
Porter isn’t the only Trojan who has garnered the teams’ attention ahead of the draft. Bennie Boatwright, a 6-foot-10 guard who played for the Trojans from 2015 to 2019, is also hoping to hear his name called by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
Boatwright led USC in both 3-point percentage (42.9%) and points per game (18.2) in his final collegiate season.
“Any time you have size and shooting, I think you’re going to get looks,” Schmitz said. “He strikes me as a guy who will probably earn a two-way contract, play a lot in the G-League [the NBA’s minor league organization] and then go from there.”
Porter and Boatwright are likely to be selected at very different stages in the draft and will embark on different paths to the NBA. For now, however, the two former Trojans can only try to impress teams as much as possible before draft night in hopes of earning their spot at the sport’s highest level.