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Should Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. reverse roles?

Is Jalen Green a point guard? Is Kevin Porter Jr.?

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Houston Rockets
Are the Rockets’ backcourt in the wrong positions?
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Porter Jr. is not a point guard.

I’m sorry. By now, that’s a fact. Porter Jr. is a point guard to the same extent that the sky is pink. Sometimes it is, but in absolute terms, it isn't. It’s blue.

Porter Jr. is either an off-guard or a wing. He’s never been a point guard. He wasn’t a point guard in high school or college. He wasn’t a point guard on the Cleveland Cavaliers. If it walks like an X and talks like an X...

(And if it doesn’t, it’s a Y).

His fiercest advocates will suggest that he’s learning on the job. Sure: he’s learning that he isn’t a point guard.

Do you know who is a point guard? Anthony Black. Isaiah Collier. That kid who runs point for your local high school team. Generally, point guards are identified at an early age. Perhaps Porter Jr. can become a point guard, but I’m not sure if he’s got a better shot of doing so than Jae’Sean Tate.

If we’re already running off-guards at the point, there’s an obvious question:

Can Jalen Green be a point guard?

What do the numbers say?

BBallIndex is not optimistic about Green’s potential as a point guard, either.

In fact, Porter Jr. clears him in most of their Playmaking metrics. Among players who could be classified as primary ball-handlers, Porter Jr. ranks in the 71st percentile in passing efficiency, whereas Green ranks in the 3.2nd. I’ll spare the rest of the grizzly details: most of the metrics BBallIndex provides tell a similar story.

Except one.

In passing creation quality, Porter Jr. is in the 61.3rd percentile. Green is in the 54.8th. That’s close. It also aligns with the eye test. Green’s gift isn’t passing - it’s scoring. Still, he’s able to create quality looks for his teammates as a consequence of those scoring gifts. His lethal first step routinely puts him in a position to make a pass that the best point guard at your local Y would be able to read.

So we’re left with a pair of related, but separate questions here. Is Kevin Porter Jr. a starting-caliber NBA point guard, and if not, can Green be? The answer to the former is yes — if you’re content with a 61.3rd percentile playmaker running the show.

The answer to the latter points to a major hole in this entire statistical analysis. Green has not functioned as a primary ball-handler. We don’t know what percentile he might grade out in if he did.

Should the Houston Rockets find out?

Switching it up

Last night against the Clippers, Green finished with 7 assists. Does that make him a point guard?

Sang is correct. Thus far, we have not seen an impressive variety of passes from Green. Of course, he’s only taking what the defense is giving him. It will be interesting to see what he has in his bag once they start taking it away.

On the other hand, passing variety isn’t really the issue with Porter Jr. He can make difficult passes — too often, he just chooses not to.

Put the stats away for a second. You’ve been watching the games, right? This offense is horrible. Does Porter Jr. stir the drink? Or is he prone to putting his head down and calling his own number?

I understand that modern point guards are often score-first. That’s fine. Playing the position still requires a player to make quick, decisive reads.

Porter Jr. doesn’t do that. What he does do is catch-and-shoot with elite efficiency: in fact, he’s knocking down 50 percent of his 1.4 attempts per game. It’s almost like he’s a shooting guard!

Frankly, I’m not sure whether Green is a point guard. I am convinced that Porter Jr. is not one. With that in mind, I think the Rockets should, at a minimum, experiment with giving Green more on-ball reps and pick-and-roll opportunities throughout the rest of 2022-2023. What’s the worst that can happen? A 2-12 stretch?

What’s the best that can happen? The Rockets find their point guard of the future.

As of now, that’s something they haven’t done yet.