Michael Porter Jr.
Robby Sabo, ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Michael Porter Jr. is an elite scoring prospect that comes with more questions than answers after a back injury limited him to three collegiate games. The odds are slim for him to land with the New York Knicks, but if enough teams are warded off by his injury, the Knickerbockers should take a shot on him.

Well, the lottery didn’t quite turn out as planned and barring a draft night miracle, Luka Doncic will not be bringing his talents to the Big Apple. But, all is not lost as the 2018 draft class is brimming with talent, especially on the wing. Even with several potential superstars expected to be picked before the Knicks are on the clock, David Fizdale and Co. still have the opportunity to acquire a talented young player that may bring this franchise one step closer to climbing out of irrelevance. Enter Michael Porter Jr., an elite scoring prospect that has the chance to form a lethal triumvirate with Kristaps Porzingis and Frank Ntilikina.

A native of Columbia, Missouri, the 6-feet-11-inch Porter has been on NBA radars for years, even as the projected top pick in many mock drafts. After his father joined Lorenzo Romar’s staff at the University of Washington, Porter relocated to Seattle and played for former NBA All-Star Brandon Roy at Nathan Hale High School. As a senior, Porter led his high school to a 29-0 record and the Washington Class 3A State Championship, averaging an astonishing 36.2 points and 13.6 rebounds per game.

A five-star recruit widely considered to be one of the best prospects in the nation, Porter was invited to participate in the Nike Hoop Summit in 2017. As a member of Team USA, he scored 19 points in 23 minutes and lead them to a 98-87 victory over the World Select Team. Initially committing to play at the University of Washington, Porter switched gears to reunite his father after he joined the University of Missouri coaching staff. Porter’s younger brother, Jontay, would also follow him to Missouri after reclassifying to become a member of the Class of 2018.

Birth YearAgeHeightWeightWingspan (inches)Standing Reach (inches)
1998196’11”21184.25108.5

Unfortunately, a back injury sustained in the season opener against Iowa State sidelined Michael Porter Jr. for most of the 2017-18 season. We were only able to glimpse his abilities over the course of three games, to which he played limited minutes. How he fares in the 2018 NBA Draft will depend heavily on his medical evaluations, but that could actually work in New York’s favor. If enough teams are scared off by his back issues, the Knicks just might have the chance to take a shot on this high upside prospect.

College Statistics (University of Missouri 2017-18)
Games PlayedMinutes PlayedPPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%3PT%FT%
317.110.06.70.31.00.3.333.300.778

What To Like

Porter’s abilities as a scorer cannot be understated. Possessing a silky-smooth jumper and soft touch, Porter is proficient as a catch-and-shoot player and off the dribble. His length and high rising form make it tough for any defender to contest. Factor that in with his in-the-gym range and Porter could potentially be a nightmare for perimeter defenses all around the NBA.

At 6-feet-11-inches, Porter is a strong ball handler with the ability to take it the length of the court in transition. Chances are he will dazzle us all going coast to coast on fast breaks. Porter is the unbreakable confidence type on the offensive end, the kind with a short memory that is laser-focused on the current possession rather than dwelling on mistakes. His off-the-ball prowess allows him to cut effectively and generate catch-and-shoot threes, as well as high percentages looks around the basket.

New York Knicks

With only three games at the collegiate level, most of what we know about Porter is based on his top prospect days. While already being a significantly athletic player, chances are we have not even glimpsed the ceiling of his athleticism. With the proper offseason training regimen, Porter has the chance to become a devastatingly elite score if he can fully put his back issues behind him and become more athletic. Additionally, his length and quickness give him all the makings of a versatile defender if he chooses to focus on improving his defensive fundamentals.

As reported by GQ’s Christopher Cason, Porter is an athlete who takes his nutrition very seriously. After growing up as a vegetarian, Porter began tinkering with a vegan diet to recover quicker from back surgery. Once his pro career gets underway, he plans to have his nutritionist live with him and take his nutrition to the next level by becoming a raw vegan.

What Not To Like

There’s no such thing as an ideal injury to have, but lower back issues could spell long-term trouble. Porter underwent spinal disc surgery after sustaining the injury in his first college game that will hopefully not diminish his massive potential. A lot hinges on what teams find in his medical and whether they believe the injury will cause recurring issues down the line.

Moving to Porter’s shortcomings on the court, a major red flag has been his lack of interest in playmaking. Porter is not particularly a great passer and does not seem to be adept at finding his teammates. Additionally, his physicality has been questioned at times. I wouldn’t go as far as to call him “soft,” but Porter goes generally look like he is avoiding contact rather going strong to the hoop.

In the half court set, Porter’s ball handling abilities can limit him at times. Without a quick first step, he finds himself unable to drive himself all the way to the hoop and often resolves to settle for jumpers. At 6-feet-11-inches, Porter does not rebound at the rate that he should and thus makes it difficult to be useful in a small ball lineup.

Fit With New York

As Danny Small reported in his Miles Bridges draft profile, the newest Knicks regime plans to play more of a fluid, positionless system in 2018-19. With good ball handling skill and the potential to be a strong defender, Porter profiles as a good fit with this team, but frankly, a prospect with as high of a ceiling as Porter would fit well on any team. If it wasn’t for his back injury, we may have been discussing Porter as a top three pick in the upcoming draft.

The real question you have to ask yourself when considering if a player will fit in New York is whether he will complement or hurt both Kristaps Porzingis and Frank Ntilikina’s games. Ntilikina is a crafty passer with a knack for finding his teammates, adding an elite scorer to that equation would cause his assists to skyrocket. Porter and Ntilikina could potentially form an overwhelming pick-and-roll, with Porter being a threat to attack the basket or pop to the outside.

In terms of playing with Porzingis, a lack of rebounding doesn’t make Porter the ideal fit to slide next to KP. Despite his explosiveness around the rim, Porzingis can become lost as a rebounder at times and adding a player who isn’t dominant in the low post and tends to avoid contact is not the best compliment for New York’s franchise player. With that being said, both are dynamic scorers who can do many different things on the court and create nightmarish mismatches on defense. In the case of Porter, I would not hesitate to pair him up with Porzingis.

Availability at Nine

Mock Draft

SelectionTeam
The Ringer5th OverallDallas Mavericks
The Athletic7th OverallChicago Bulls
Bleacher Report7th OverallChicago Bulls
ESPN8th OverallCleveland Cavaliers
NBADraft.net6th OverallOrlando Magic
CBS Sports4th OverallMemphis Grizzlies
Average6.2

The prognosis is not good for the Knicks. A lot would need to happen for Porter to fall to them at nine. Unfortunately, even with his injury troubles, there are several teams that recognize Porter’s elite scoring potential. The 19-year-old forward could be a fit in Memphis, Dallas, Orlando, or Chicago. All the Knicks can hope for is that the eight teams in front of them get cold feet and scared off based on Porter’s recent back surgery.

There is a precedent for players entering the draft coming off significant injuries. Kyrie Irving’s toe injury that limited him to 11 collegiate games did not dissuade the Cleveland Cavaliers from selecting him first overall. A stress fracture in his back did not prevent Joel Embiid from going third overall to the Philadelphia 76ers. The fact of the matter is that the gamble with Porter is too good to pass up. He has the chance to evolve into a go-to scorer like Jayson Tatum if all goes well. He may not necessarily get there as quickly as Tatum did, but the similarities are there. Ultimately, a lot of things would have to break the Knicks way for Porter to wind up at Madison Square Garden. But if it were to shake the way we are all hoping, he could form a lethal trio with Porzingis and Ntilikina.

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