Michael Porter Jr. entered the 2017-2018 college basketball season with a massive amount of hype surrounding his name. The six-foot-ten, 215-pound forward was a top recruit coming out of high school when he committed to Missouri to play alongside his brother and under his father, who is an assistant coach at Missouri.
He would continue to be a major story of this past college basketball season, but for all the wrong reasons. Two minutes into his season, Michael Porter Jr. was placed on the bench due to a back injury that would eventually require surgery. This injury kept Porter Jr. sidelined from November until the SEC tournament in March.
Missing all of that time left NBA scouts and executives unsure of the player he would be going into the NBA draft. In just 53 total minutes played in the 2017-2018 NCAA season, Michael Porter Jr. averaged 10.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.0 steal, and 0.3 assists while shooting 30 percent from three-point range and 35 percent from two-point range.
Despite missing nearly all of the 2017-18 season to the aforementioned back injury, Michael Porter Jr. isn’t lacking confidence, telling reporters at the NBA Combine in Chicago on Thursday, “I’ve played against all these guys,” Porter said Thursday during a session with reporters at the NBA Draft Combine. “They’re all great players. But I’m the best player in this draft and I just can’t wait to show what I’m capable of.”
Michael Porter Jr. was viewed as the top overall recruit in his high school class and he deserved that ranking. In his senior season, he averaged an eye popping 36.2 points and 13.6 rebounds per game on his way to a Washington State Championship. His performance in high school lead to a buzz that surrounded the Missouri basketball program and had everyone ready to watch their games during the season.
However, once fellow draft prospect Marvin Bagley reclassified and joined Porter Jr’s class, there was a debate as to whether Bagley or Porter Jr. should be the top recruit. Both players made strong cases for the spot and it seemed like there was no consensus as to who held the spot. Both were listed number one throughout a variety of different recruiting sites.
Before the start of the 2017-2018 college basketball season, Michael Porter Jr. was considered to be a likely candidate for the number one overall pick in this upcoming NBA draft. That put a lot of pressure on him and unfortunately there was a limited chance to see if he could handle the pressure or not. Porter Jr’s draft stock has fallen and he’s no longer projected as the number one pick and that’s not because of a lack of talent.
Porter told reporters on Thursday that he was disappointed that he missed much of last season, but contends that his back surgery might actually be a blessing in disguise, “I think it was a step back to take three steps forward,” Porter said. “I feel like I took a step back, but now I’m able to reach my full potential being out of pain and everything.
The first thing that comes to mind when you think of a strength of Michael Porter Jr. is his ability to score. As a 6’10” forward, he gives you a combination of height and the ability to stretch the floor with his three-point shooting.
Despite only shooting 30 percent from three during his time at Missouri, this is still listed as one of his strengths because it was a major component of his game in high school. After missing that much time with a back injury that limited his mobility while he was recovering, it was hard for Michael Porter Jr. to get into a rhythm offensively when he made his return to the court.
However, he had his clutch moment of the season when Missouri faced Georgia in the second round of the SEC Tournament. With under a minute left to play, Missouri was down by four points as Georgia was trying to seal the victory. Michael Porter Jr. would go on to hit a three-pointer that brought it to a one-point game. Missouri would end up losing, but nonetheless it was a big shot in a big moment for him.
Another strength that’s noticeable in the video above comes in the form of the high arc he has on his jump shot. Pairing that arc with his height makes him very difficult to block when he pulls up to shoot, especially from the mid-to-deep range.
With that being said, there’s also a noticeable flaw in Michael Porter Jr’s shot which is that he’s slow to his release point with the ball. As he moves on to the next level and faces some of the best defenders and athletes basketball has to offer, they will be able to time his shot more frequently and put themselves in better position to block it.
Another strength of Michael Porter Jr is that he cuts to the rim in transition. A lot of times skilled shooters will float around and wait for an open shot. Michael Porter Jr see’s when his team has an advantage and runs down court for an easy bucket.
As you can see, he’s hustling down court in transition. He notices that he has an open lane to the hoop and cuts there behind the defender for an easy dunk. Here’s another video of him seeing a hole in the defense and slashing through it for a transition dunk.
Not only does Michael Porter Jr posses the skills to score from beyond the three-point line and from mid-range, he is also consistent with finishing at the rim. His athleticism allows him to avoid defenders in the paint and still finish strong.
Michael Porter Jr. shows his athleticism here by cutting through the defense without needing to dribble and still makes it to the rim for a layup. He also uses a nifty up-and-under move on his brother, Jontay Porter, for a flashy finish. He’s seen a lot of success in the early stages of his basketball career without needing to put the ball on the floor.
Speaking of ball handling, that would be the next flaw in Michael Porter Jr’s game. He’s known for being a catch-and-shoot type player or one that utilizes the pick-and-pop. It has worked out well for him so far, but that’s because he’s been much more talented and athletic than anyone he’s faced up to this point. His ball handling isn’t terrible by any means, but it can get sloppy and careless at times.
Here he did a good job reading the pass and getting in front of his defender for a steal. However, once he started driving down court with the ball, he had a hard time handling it. If this wasn’t in a scrimmage, it likely would’ve ended in a turnover/empty possession. Here’s another video where he has trouble with the ball during a game.
He was bailed out by a foul on this possession, but once again he had no control of the ball and ended up being knocked to the floor by a defender. Ball handling is something Michael Porter Jr. is really going to have to improve on for the NBA.
His shot selection can be predictable at times. He’s going to need to get creative with his shots and be able to create them on his own at the next level. Teams will be able to defend him when he spots up and won’t give him any easy looks.
Another noticeable aspect to Michael Porter Jr’s game is that he often tries to avoid contact when attacking the rim. Again, this is something he’s been able to get away with through this point in his career, but he will have a hard time doing that in the NBA. Players in the NBA will issue a hard foul before they allow someone to get past them uncontested.
With his rather thin frame of 6’10” and just 215 lbs., Michael Porter Jr. will need to bulk up once he makes it to the next level, especially in the lower half of his body. Contact happens much more frequently in the NBA and he needs a strong frame to help him absorb contact without causing any harm to his body. Plus with his back surgery, building a strong frame would only benefit him in the long run.
Michael Porter Jr. enters the upcoming NBA draft as a question mark. Right now, he’s projected to be selected as low as the eighth pick. However, there are teams selecting in the third to fifth range that might be willing to take a chance on him. He likely could be available when the Bulls are on the clock with the seventh pick. He is a player the Bulls have expressed interest in and is a someone they have done their homework on throughout the season, watching his recovery closely.
The NBA Combine is going to be huge for his draft stock. This is going to give NBA scouts an up close look at the former Missouri forward and to see how they think his skills will translate at the next level. Another important factor in his draft stock which teams will be finding out soon is his medical update. They will want to know every little and last detail about his back injury and will want to see how he’s healed up. Even if he has a great combine, but shows there’s still some potential issues with his back, that could be enough to keep an organization from drafting him high in the first round.
Michael Porter Jr. is the type of player, that if completely healthy, will make an immediate impact on the team that selects him. He’s a tall, lengthy forward that can score from just about anywhere. It’s going to be tough for him to adjust at first since he lost out on developmental time at the collegiate level. However, if there’s anyone that can go on to have a solid NBA career despite not playing much in college, it’s Michael Porter Jr.
“I was hoping to turn college basketball upside-down, just like a lot of these players: Trae [Young], Deandre [Ayton], Marvin [Bagley III]. But this is just a step in my process of becoming the best player I can be. It’s a little different but I’m more ready than ever. I’ve been dreaming about this NBA stuff for so long. I feel like I’m ready.”
When drawing up a comparison to someone who is six-foot-ten, has a seven-foot wingspan, is known for their scoring abilities, and has a lanky frame, there’s one particular player that comes to mind and that’s Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors. Obviously that’s the ceiling for Michael Porter Jr., but that’s a great ceiling to have. Kevin Durant is much better at attacking the rim, but that’s something that Porter Jr. will be able to get better at as he gets stronger and develops.
On draft night, if the Bulls are on the clock and Michael Porter Jr. is still available, I would be ecstatic at the opportunity to have him on the team. He would be a top 3 talent in any other draft and likely would be in this draft had it not been for his injury. Getting him with the seventh pick could end up being a steal that people talk about for years. It will be interesting to see how everything plays out until that point because he will have eyes on him from just about every team drafting in the top 10.
As far as Porter’s feelings on playing with the Bulls, he had this to say to the media on Thursday, “I feel like I’d fit in great with those guys,” he said. “They’ve got a great core, a lot of young guys, athletic guys. And they’re kind of looking for a small-four position, so I feel like I’d fit in great with those guys.”
Pairing him up with a player like Lauri Markkanen could make the Bulls a very scary team in a few years. Both players would complement each other’s game and they would put up a lot of points together in Chicago. Michael Porter Jr. fits the mold of exactly what the Bulls are looking for. They need help on the wing and also need someone that can be a constant threat from beyond the arc with Markkanen. Seeing these two go toe-to-toe in shoot outs during a game could be something truly special to watch.
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