Observing Kevin Porter Jr., KZ Okpala, and Bennie Boatwright

February 14, 2019

by Alan Lu

I decided to take the time to watch Kevin Porter Jr. and USC take on KZ Okpala and Stanford in a Pac-12 basketball game that was played on February 13th.  It was a very competitive match that went back and forth, and early on, Kevin Porter Jr. played very well on both ends of the floor.  But in the second half, Stanford received strong play from their role players and team play overall, as they were able to rally back to get a comeback win over their opponent.  Here are my thoughts on how various prospects fared, as well as how their games may translate to the NBA.

For USC’s freshman swingman, Kevin Porter Jr., it was a tale of two halves for him.  He had a really strong first half as he played well in all facets of the game, and he also threw down a really nice highlight reel worthy dunk off of a drive, but he struggled in the second half as he had trouble making shots, and he also struggled with turnovers and foul trouble.  Porter did an adequate job of scoring on aggressive drives to the basket.  He was able to drive hard to his left to score on a thunderous dunk, and he also scored on a high-flying jam on a drive in transition another time, as he possesses very good athleticism to finish plays above the rim.  But sometimes he may struggle to get all the way to the rim, and he also tended to miss more when he would attempt to score in traffic around the basket.

Also, he managed to score on a double pump layup after getting the ball on a backdoor cut, and Porter also drew an extra free throw afterwards.  Porter did use a crossover move to make a nifty, pull-up three early in the game, but he struggled to consistently knock down jumpers, as he especially had trouble making pull-up jumpers throughout this contest.  He also displayed adequate playmaking skills.  Porter is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, and he was able to make an assortment of passes to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  He also tends to throw good interior passes, and he was able to find a cutter out of the post to notch one assist.  But sometimes he can throw inaccurate passes that can go astray, which can lead him to occasionally commit turnovers.

Plus, Porter did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  He would hustle to get boards on both ends of the floor, as he would chase down balls to get some, and swoop in to get others.  Adding to that, Porter also played good defense.  He was an active help defender, as he was able to jump on a loose ball that an opponent had dropped to get a steal, and Porter also made a terrific shot block from behind to force a miss on a separate play due to possessing very good athleticism, timing, and instincts.  Porter would deflect passes and alter shots in the paint to force misses, and he really excelled on the defensive end in the first half.  However, he also can be foul prone, as he had a tendency to commit reach-in fouls when defending opposing ball handlers.  Sometimes, he would have trouble staying with his man out on the perimeter, which would lead him to commit some fouls as a result.

In general, Kevin Porter Jr. had a terrific first half, and though he did not play nearly as well in the second half, he may have been the best prospect to emerge out of this game, and he certainly seemed to have played better than the box score indicated.  When he’s on his game, he certainly can be a difference maker, and his scoring and defensive skills could potentially allow him to thrive in the NBA.  On the other hand, Porter will need to work on being a more consistent and more focused player in games so that he can continue to excel when he is on the floor.  Right now, he may be project to be a mid to late first round prospect, and he could end up being a similar player to Cleveland Cavaliers’ guard, J.R. Smith in the NBA.

Stanford’s sophomore forward, KZ Okpala had his ups and downs in his team’s win over USC.  He excelled at attacking the basket to garner scores, but he struggled to knock down jumpers and ran into foul trouble, and he ended up fouling out late in the game.  Even still, his team was able to rally with him on the bench to get the victory.  Okpala did a very good job of scoring on aggressive drives to the basket.  He has a solid first step to the hoop as well as good ball handling skills, and he can quickly get past his man to get scores and free throws for his team.  He also managed to score on a magnetic jam off of a drive in transition, and he generally excelled at scoring around the basket off the dribble, though he tended to miss more when attempting floaters.

He also flashed an ability to score in the post.  Okpala was able to use a pivot move to score from the block, but he tended to miss shots in the post however, as he had trouble making turnaround jumpers or jump hooks on a consistent basis.  Okpala also had trouble knocking down jump shots, especially when he would take them away from the paint area, as he was often unable to connect on mid-range on three-point shots.

Plus, Okpala also displayed adequate playmaking skills.  He tended to throw sharp interior passes to set up scoring chances for his teammates, and he also can kick the ball out to shooters to get them the basketball due to possessing good court vision, but sometimes he would drop passes or wait too long to make decisions on offense, and he also committed a couple of turnovers off of drives.  He had a ball poked away after handling it once, and he also committed a charging foul by crashing into an opponent another time.  Okpala didn’t grab many rebounds in this game, but he was more active on the offensive glass when he was on the floor, and he would leap up to get them to help his team on the boards on that side of the ball.

Also, he played adequate defense.  Okpala was an active help defender that would jump passes and jump on loose balls to get steals and deflections, and he would also contest shots off of drives to help force misses.  On the downside, he had some trouble defending opponents off the dribble, and he also had a tendency to commit fouls and bite on pump fakes due to over-aggressiveness.  In summary, KZ Okpala is an intriguing prospect, as he is an athletic combo forward that can quickly get to the rim off the dribble, and he can finish plays above the rim.  On the other hand, he will need to improve his jump shot and be a more disciplined position defender in games.  Right now, he could be an option for teams to take in the late first to the early second round range, and in a favorable scenario, he could end up being a reliable role player as a Jeff Green type in the NBA.

USC’s 6-10 senior forward, Bennie Boatwright had a fairly good game in his team’s loss to Stanford.  He showed off versatile scoring skills, as well as an improved commitment to the glass to help his team on the boards.  Boatwright did a good job of getting scores on smooth drives to the hoop, as he can garner scores using his right hand, and he also can draw fouls upon his opposing defenders.  He also excelled at scoring on hustle plays, and he move off the ball to actively finish plays around the basket.  He also excelled at making jumpers to space the floor, and he especially had a knack for making spot-up threes off the catch.  On one play, he was able to run off the ball to knock down a corner three.

Also, he displayed fairly average playmaking skills.  Though he looked to score quite often, Boatwright was able to can throw accurate interior passes as well as pass out to shooters to set up scoring chances for his teammates, but sometimes, he would be turnover prone in this game.  He fell after driving to the rim from the high post once, as he ended up throwing the ball out of bounds.  Another time, he was called for traveling after attempting to pull up to take a mid-range shot.  Boatwright also was able to get some rebounds when he was on the court.  He was able to haul in boards on both ends of the floor, and he also managed to score on a put back after getting an offensive rebound once.  However, sometimes he would forget to box out his opponents, and there was one play where he was called for going over the back when attempting to get a defensive board.

On the other hand, he will need to improve defensively.  For the positives, Boatwright was able to get a couple of steals, as he is an agile forward that can jump on loose balls.  He also managed to contest a mid-range shot to force a miss, but Boatwright sometimes would commit touch fouls, as he would occasionally struggle to guard his man.  Other times he would not look to actively contest shots, though that was largely because he was in foul trouble.  He also had a tendency to over-help in the paint, which would allow his opponents to get easy scores, and he also bit on a pump fake that led his opponent to score on a three-point shot.  Overall, Boatwright had a fairly good game in his team’s loss to Stanford.  He is an athletic combo forward that can shoot and score the basketball, and he also has some handles as well.  However, he will need to improve his rebounding and defense.  Right now, he may be a second round prospect, as he could end up being a similar player to Detroit Pistons’ forward, Jon Leuer in the NBA.

Other Notes:

Stanford’s 6-9 sophomore forward, Oscar da Silva excelled at rebounding and blocking shots in the paint, and he was a defensive presence when he was on the court.  He also was able to finish plays around the basket as he made a tip dunk once, and he also made an open three to show his versatility on offense.  He also generally passed the ball well, but he also had some trouble with turnovers and fouls.  He is an athletic, high motor big man that could be a player to watch in the future.

Stanford’s 7-0 senior center, Josh Sharma had a very good game as he dominated his team’s win over USC.  He excelled at finishing plays around the basket as he would throw down powerful dunks at will, and he also did a good job of scoring on jump hooks.  He also rebounded the ball well.  Sometimes, he would be late on his rotations or to get back to his man, which would cause him to commit fouls and allow scores defensively, though.  Still, Sharma is an athletic, high-motor player that could end up making an NBA team’s summer league roster, and he could end up being a similar player to former New York Knicks’ center, Marshall Plumlee in the association.

Stanford’s 6-5 junior guard, Marcus Sheffield also played very well, as he really excelled at knocking down spot-up threes to space the floor for his team on offense, and he also scored on a dunk off of a cut to the hoop.  He also was able to deflect passes, but sometimes he would struggle with his position defense when guarding opponents.  He could be a player to watch in the future, as he could project to be a shooting specialist at the next level.

USC’s 6-3 junior guard, Jonah Mathews played very well in his team’s loss to Stanford.  He was an efficient scorer that did so in a variety of ways.  He excelled at making spot-up threes, he scored on strong drives to the hoop, and he also scored on backdoor cuts.  He also rotated to block a shot from behind early on, and he also drew a charge when defending in the post.  Matthews had a strong showing in this game, and he is an athletic combo guard that could be a player to watch in the future.

Stanford’s 6-6 freshman swingman, Bryce Wills had a good game for his team in Stanford’s win over USC.  He made key shots down the stretch, he excelled as a scorer off of quick drives to the hoop, and he also made an open deep three.  He also managed to swat a shot off of a drive to help his team defensively.  Plus, he also grabbed plenty of rebounds and notched a good number of assists, as he quietly had a solid all-around performance to help his team get the victory.  Wills is a talented player that can play either backcourt position, and he could be a prospect to keep an eye on in the future, as he could perhaps end up being Stanford’s best player one day.

USC’s 6-11 junior center, Nick Rakocevic had a fairly good game in his team’s loss to Stanford.  He  excelled at scoring in the post, around the basket, and off of cuts to the hoop, and he also passed the ball well.  Plus, he also showed some deft ball handling skills as he would bring the ball up the court a couple of times, and Rakocevic also rebounded the ball well.  However, he really struggled defensively as he had a tendency to over-help and leave his own man open too often, and he also had a tendency to get beat on plays, and he also was late on some of his rotations.  Overall, Rakocevic could be a potential second round pick for the 2020 draft, and in a favorable scenario, he could perhaps end up being like a poor man’s version of Enes Kanter in the NBA.