SOMEONE is going to gamble on Michael Porter Jr.
He insists it’ll pay off.
There is an element of danger involved with every NBA draft pick, in that nothing is guaranteed. There isn’t a player that epitomizes the risk versus reward thinking in this draft more than Porter Jr., who could get taken as high as No. 2 by Sacramento or go several picks lower because of uncertainty surrounding his health.
Back problems that necessitated surgery limited his lone college season to three games at Missouri, and a scheduled Friday workout was called off because of hip spasms. There’s still a chance he will do a workout before draft night and teams have gotten access to new medical information that would seem to suggest he’s ready for the NBA — but still, skepticism may be understandable.
“I’m feeling great,” Porter Jr. said.
Find out on Thursday night (Friday, Manila time) which team believes him the most.
He’s 6-foot-10 and is usually categorized as a power forward, though in an NBA that’s now largely positionless Porter Jr. could wear a lot of hats. He’s already shown a complete skillset — passing, dribbling, shooting — that would translate to playing basically anywhere except center. He weighed 211 pounds last month at the Draft Combine, meaning there’s still plenty of room on his frame to add strength.
His college highlights are basically nonexistent: Porter Jr. scored 30 points in 53 minutes of action with the Tigers. Porter Jr.’s reputation is largely built on what he did as a high schooler when he was considered the best prospect in the country, and there was a workout earlier this month arranged by agent Mark Bartelstein earlier this month where he got rave reviews.
“He showed that he’s alive and well and moving,” said Memphis general manager Chris Wallace, whose team has the No. 4 pick — and has been linked to Porter Jr. by many prognosticators. “I would say (he) passed that first test.”
Alive, well and moving would seem to be the absolute basic prerequisites for a team to be satisfied about when preparing to use a lottery pick on someone, but Porter Jr. vows that whichever team grabs him won’t be disappointed.
“I just feel like in today’s game, there’s guys that can do anything on the floor,” Porter Jr. said. “And that’s how I kind of view myself.”
Porter Jr. played two minutes in his college debut in November, then underwent back surgery — a microdiscectomy of the L3 and L4 spinal discs — about a week and a half later. He returned for an SEC Tournament game against Georgia, then put up 16 points and 10 rebounds in Missouri’s loss to Florida State in the NCAA Tournament.
The injury went back to Porter Jr.’s sophomore year of high school, when he got hurt while getting hit on a dunk attempt.
“He’s a very versatile player,” former Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “And I’m thankful that the kid’s gotten healthy because he was a terrific talent. ... He’ll be a top-five selection. I remember watching him in high school, and he’s as complete of a player as there was at that level.”
That’s what Porter Jr. wants NBA teams to remember before making their selection.
He believes he’s the best player. But with every indication that Deandre Ayton will go No. 1 to Phoenix, the intrigue starts at No. 2 and Porter is surely getting a real long look from the franchises that have the other top-10 spots, those being in order Sacramento, Atlanta, Memphis, Dallas, Orlando, Chicago, Cleveland, New York and Philadelphia.
“It’s about getting in the right situation,” Porter Jr. said. “I don’t need to go No. 1. I don’t feel like I have an ego that makes me want to go No. 1. I just want the right situation for me.”