Former Tech star, Trey Lyles and Bobby Portis (Arkansas) will be among the players at the Pacers next workout on Thursday. While they may not matchup directly much during the workout, they are both strong, first-round considerations, so let's check out the battle of the Power Forwards: Lyles v Portis. The two SEC standouts that are high on the Pacers draft boards.
Post-Game- Lyles and Portis were two different big men at their respective universities. Lyles was not a power forward, but filled the small forward role for Kentucky, which did not give much insight to the quality of his post-game. Portis on the other hand was a more traditional back to the basket big man for Arkansas, who showed a lot of crafty moves on the low block. However, it is unfair to just assume that Lyles has a weak post game since prior to Kentucky he was utilized in the four slot. When taking a close look at the back to the basket game of both players, it is obvious that both have a lot of work to become high quality power forwards in the league. Lyles and Portis both have decent moves and skills, but neither is decisively big, and neither showed true post moves in college. Lyles showed some pretty good skills prior to Kentucky, but it is hard to use this is as a measuring stick, when against the highest level competition he faced he hardly used these skills. When Portis faced high quality competition, his post game was often lack luster. His foot work is mediocre, he favored his right hand too much, is not overly explosive on the block, and doesn't have advanced moves to set him apart. When putting that together it becomes hard to know if his post game is solid enough for the NBA. As eluded to, Lyles has plenty of questions himself. However, it is key to ask if this category is that important anymore in modern basketball. As teams, including the Pacers, try and speed up games and have quicker, smaller, and more explosive players in every position, do other skills make the back to the basket game nearly irrelevant? It is key to keep that in mind when thinking of the overall value of each player. With both players really struggling in the category, I think that Portis slightly edges Lye's, but it is very close. It is hard to even evaluate Lyles with his lack of post-up game used at Kentucky.
Shooting Abilities- With both players, especially Lyle's, not having stellar post games and not favoring the post, their shooting abilities are a key area for them to be offensive assets. As mentioned, being a versatile big man is essential in today's NBA with the up tempo style of play and greater abilities of every player on the floor. Both players showed solid shooting abilities, but is another area where the two do need some work. Lyle's has the more fluid, traditional release that immediately makes his jumper look more appealing. But, delving into the stats shows that Portis slightly edges Lyles with a 57% true shooting percentage to Lyles 54%. So although Portis has the more awkward, rigid release that does not look pretty, he gets the ball in the basket at a high percentage. Simply; his release works for him. Lyle's 54% is not very solid as well and the mentioned much better looking release makes him more appealing for the long term in the consistency category. From deep Portis has a high percentage at 46.7%, but that was on 1.0 attempt per game. Lyles's attempted many more threes and had a much lower percentage, 14%, but both players have shown they are more than capable of stepping out and knocking down the long range jumper. Now while the numbers clearly say that Portis is the better jump shooter, there is something about his release that makes me question his consistency in the long term. Lyle's just seems to have a much better jumper that lends itself to being a better NBA player. Lyle's wins another close one.
Size/Length- Size and length are two big keys for NBA players on the defensive and offensive end for being effective rebounders, defenders, and having slight advantages from those around them. This is where Lyles has an advantage with his freakishly long reach of 7-3 ½, compared to Portis' 7-2, which is good, but not quite the level of Lyle's. That length gives Lyle's a slight edge defensively on being able to contest jumpers, get hands in the passing lane, and grab rebounds. When talking about two guys of this quality, every little thing makes a big difference. While Lyle's has the length, Portis has the body. Portis has a lot more muscle on his frame and has a much more NBA ready body that helps him offer an immediate impact over Lyles who needs to add muscle in the 4 spot. Within size and length, I am going to throw in that neither player is overly explosive, or athletic, which could be a problem on the defensive end in being able to defend smaller players and offensively in being able to create off of the bounce. Portis wins this category with his NBA ready body that offers a more immediate lift compared to Lyles who needs to fill out more, but offers the length.
Rebounding- Portis was a fantastic offensive rebounder for Arkansas averaging 4.5 per game, fourth in the DX-100. That is very impressive and offers immediate lift on put backs and more offensive possessions per game. Portis seemed to have a nose for the ball on the offensive end of the floor and was able to track down long rebounds that were out of his area and seemed to be a stretch. On the defensive side, Portis struggled averaging only 6.4 per 40. Portis often was caught out of position and ball watching and he did not have the athletic ability to get rebounds over other bigs. Lyles had some okay rebounding numbers with 5.2 total per game and 3.4 offensive rebounds, but Lyles is not at the rebounding level of Portis and was not in the role to be a major rebounder at Kentucky. It is hard to tell if Lyles has a nose for the ball and is a beast on the boards when he was often seen floating on the perimeter. With that said, Portis takes this category.
Other- there are several other things that did not quite fit into the categories I chose to cover. Both Lyles and Portis are very versatile big men who can stretch the floor and get out in transition, but Lyle's offers some skills that Portis did not show at Arkansas. Lyles was a good passer for Kentucky and has a high IQ which allows him to turn the ball over infrequently. Lyles show cased that he is comfortable handling the ball and can easily attack off of the bounce. Adding handling skills to his jumper, while playing at the four, offers more versatility than Portis has to offer. It bodes well for the newer NBA game and the new style the Pacers are trying to adapt.
Portis was a good defender while at Arkansas who could guard several different positions. Portis blocked 1.9 per 40, which stacks up well with other big men that the Pacers are considering. Portis also has solid steal numbers at 1.4 per 40. As stated, Portis was able to guard smaller players and was not seen getting blown by and taken off of the bounce easily. Portis did struggle on the low block at keeping defenders out and being physical. Overall, Portis is a solid defender who offers some versatility. Lyle's on the other hand is a pretty poor defender. Lyles lacked the lateral quickness to defend against the more agile, smaller, offensive he players he often faced, even with his long wingspan. His average overall athleticism leaves him vulnerable to smaller, quicker, big men in the NBA that are decisive and quick on the low block. The stats usually used to judge the athleticism of a player are-blocks and steals-both of which were horrendous for a player with the wingspan and size of Lyles. Lyles only averaged .8 blocks and .9 steals per 40 while at Kentucky. Now before everyone says that is 100% due to being out of position, his stats from his AAU/FIBA, where he played his more accustomed 4/5 role, were equally as bad with 1 block and 1.2 steals per 40. Within the 1 block per game is his lacking rim protection. Lyle's poor defense leaves a bad taste in many peoples mouth and I give this category to Portis.
Both players are good and like so many other comparisons, these players are very close. Both players offer solid offensive skills, but Lyle's offers that little bit more that makes him a great offensive threat. But, he needs to build his body and drastically improve his defense to become a good NBA player. Portis is already a solid defender who has an NBA ready body and good offensive skills. The Pacers seem to be looking for the young big man who offers that offensive lift and fits the team's style. With the new up temp style the Pacers are introducing the coming seasons, either player will fit just fine. It is down to the nitty gritty for these two and I really like Portis' game, but Lyles seems to have the higher upside and fit for the Pacers. Lyle's offers that bit more offensive skill set in ball handling, passing, and a more fluid jumper that makes him more appealing. His less NBA ready body and needing work defense, are two things that can easily be improved upon within the first couple of seasons. Lyle's post-game needs to show its worth, but it seems that he had a pretty solid back to the basket game before going off to Kentucky. Lyles weaknesses just seem to be more fixable, while holding slightly better skills than Portis. What do you guys think?