2018 Pick Number 7– Michael Porter Jr.
Height – 6’11”
Weight – 211lbs
Age – 19yrs
Wingspan – 7’0.5″
Position – Multipositional Big
Strengths – Athleticism, rebounding, perimeter shooting, Passing
Weaknesses – Injury history
NBA comp – Blake Griffin
Coming into the 2017/18 NCAA Basketball season, Michael Porter Jr. was a top 5 prospect in virtually every early mock draft. Many scouts and observers had MPJ ranked #1 heading into the season. But an injury to a disk in his lower back derailed his college career just 2minutes after it started. Porter did eventually return just before the end of the season to play 3 games including the elimination game in his conference tournament for Missouri but looked virtually nothing like the prospect that he had been in HS and the AAU and international circuit. Without getting his full wind he looked much more like a perimeter oriented big than a versatile, do everything, 6’11” Superstar.
The biggest question is, will the injury history sap some of the athleticism and versatility that made MPJ such a highly touted prospect to begin with? it is precisely this sort of dilemma that makes Porter Jr. such a boom or bust pick and makes his draft stock so volatile.
Why it makes sense for Chicago
The Bulls have some interesting parts and pieces. Lauri Markkanen was a home run last year for Chicago and Bobby Portis has proved to be a volatile, feisty force. Lauri and Portis are somewhat tweeners in the NBA and MPJ could be a great compliment to those guys creating a versatile and very big front line to go with Kris Dunn and Zach Lavine.
But mostly this pick make sense from a value and potential point of view. We are talking about getting possibly the most versatile and talented player in the draft at #7. This isn’t quite the same kind of moonshot as taking a Trae Young where you hope his near magical ability makes up for his lack of an NBA body. Porter Jr., if healthy has the size and skill to create mismatches on both ends.
First and foremost, his skill at his size is incredible. Porter measured at 6-foot-9 1/2 inches barefoot at the draft combine. He’s essentially 6-11 in shoes, yet handles and drives like a wing. How many 6-11 players can take the ball up full court with their off hand, pressured by a guard, and get to a pull-up three this easily? – Cleaningtheglass.com
Porter was considered a prospect in the mold of Ben Simmons coming out of HS. His ability to rebound, lead the break and make shots for a guy that big was super rare. Some considered him a supersize small forward, others a super quick power forward who could truly create matchup nightmares for opposing teams. To me, Blake Griffin comes to mind, not because of the nagging injury history but simply because it is hard to think of guys that big and that explosive that have vision and touch.
What the back injury robbed us, however, was to see how that diverse skillset might translate into a structured environment and offensive scheme. The biggest non injury concern for MPJ is that he excelled in AAU style play but would his proclivity for taking tough pull up mid range shots result in some inefficient play. 3 games of out of shape Porter is simply too small a sample size to judge just how good he fits into a modern NBA scheme.
Defense is another area where MPJ suffers from lack of film in a structured environment against similar level talent. His wingspan is average for his height and its hard to envision Porter as much of a rim protector at the NBA level. Additionally, his projection as a defender is dependent on what scheme he will be asked to play in and what role he will have in an NBA defense. He has the quickness and size to do an adequate job on most switches but it is extremely hard to predict his level of defensive awareness and anticipation.
As Ben Faulk wrote in the fantastic article The Micheal Porter Jr. Mystery selecting Porter represents a swing for the fences. For teams trying to hit singles and doubles, his bust potential may make them shy away. For teams in need of transcendent talent, he may be worth the gamble.