Michael Porter Jr. is widely expected to be a lottery pick in the 2018 NBA draft, though few people expect the Phoenix Suns to take him with the No. 1 overall pick.
The player likely to go No. 1 at this point is Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton, though EuroLeague star Luka Doncic could also be in the mix. Porter believes he should be considered as well and even went so far as to tell reporters Thursday at the NBA draft combine that he’s the best player in the draft.
“I mean I played against all these guys,” Porter said (via USA Today). “They’re all great players but I’m the best player in this draft.”
Why won’t Porter go No. 1?
Porter’s season at Missouri was nothing like what he and Tigers fans envisioned. After taking 20 shots in Missouri’s charity exhibition game against Kansas he took 30 shots the rest of the season.
Porter played just two minutes in Missouri’s season-opening win against Iowa State before being sidelined with a back problem that had been bothering him since high school. After Missouri said he was out indefinitely, Porter had a microdiscectomy in his lumbar spine to alleviate the pain and discomfort he was experiencing.
The surgery sidelined him for much of the rest of the season. After teasing a possible return on social media for weeks, Porter returned in Missouri’s SEC Tournament loss against Georgia. He then played in the Tigers’ NCAA tournament loss to Florida State.
Porter shot a combined 9-29 in those two games as he tried to mesh with a depleted Missouri roster that had overachieved in his absence. He notably lacked burst as he played his first competitive games in more than three months.
Coincidentally, Porter’s absence paved the way for his younger brother Jontay to become the Tigers’ best all-around player. Jontay Porter, who reclassified and skipped his senior year of high school to play with Michael. Jontay is also entered in the 2018 draft but hasn’t signed with an agent.
But Porter’s comment isn’t that wild
Despite the back injury, it’s been a foregone conclusion since the day Porter committed to Missouri instead of Washington that he would be a one-and-done player.
Porter was ranked the No. 1 player in the class of 2017 according to Rivals ahead of Marvin Bagley Jr., Ayton, Mo Bamba, Wendell Carter, Trae Young and Jaren Jackson. Yeah, recruiting rankings aren’t everything, but those players could have entered the NBA draft straight out of high school there’s a great chance Porter would have been taken ahead of everyone.
A 6-9 forward, Porter can shoot from deep and get to the rim. If healthy, he’s a perfect fit in a modern NBA which values tall forwards who can play on the wing.
Admittedly, “if healthy” is a giant caveat. Back injuries are nothing to mess with and it’s easy to see a team or two picking high in the draft being scared of selecting Porter because of his back surgery.
But if Porter is fully healthy like he says he is it’s easy to see him developing into one of the best, if not the best, players in the class. He was the top player in the country for a reason and possibly ascended to that ranking while dealing with the back injury. Isn’t confidence a good thing?
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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