Michael Porter Jr. has had a pretty weird year. Maybe not at the level of everything going on with the Sixers during this entire season, but weird nonetheless. Even with everything he has had to go through, he is still projected to be a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. In order for him to become a Sixer he will have to slip a little, but that is very possible because of numerous concerns with injuries and how high his ceiling actually is, but if it does happen the team needs to pounce on him.
Everything that Porter did this year needs to be taken with a grain of salt. He played in two games, plus another two minutes in another before leaving due to injury, so nothing that happened this season is really indicative of who Porter is as a player. With that said, the injure he sustained needs to be addressed fully before any part of his game can be broken down.
Porter played two minutes in the University of Missouri’s season opener. He left with a hip injury that turned into the school announcing a spinal injury that would seemingly sideline Porter for the entire year. A microdisectomy of the L3-L4 spinal discs is not an injury to scoff at, it is a serious one that needs time and a lot of energy to get back to full health for just a normal person, not a world class athlete. Porter worked hard to get back on the court and was actually able to return before the end of the year, playing in two games at the end of the year for the Tigers. The Sixers are no strangers to major injuries for star players, and the ability for Porter to be cleared by both team doctors and specialists says that he was 100% healthy and the injury isn’t a concern anymore. Porter was basically a lock to go in the top ten picks before even playing a minute of college basketball, there is no chance he would jeopardize his career by coming back too quickly to play in meaningless college games.
Even without having college footage to back up his game, Porter is still one of the most exciting prospects in the draft on the offensive side of the court. After coming back from that serious spinal injury it was obvious that Porter wasn’t in game shape, yet he played anyways. He looked slow and wasn’t an active member of the offense in his short stint in college because of the toll of the spinal injury, so we have to go back to his high school tape to really get an idea of who Porter is on offense.
As a senior at Nathan Hale High School in Washington, Porter averaged 37 points per game, cementing his status as the top high school prospect because of his ability to score at all levels. Yes, a player with Porter’s skill is going to dominate high school players solely because he’s so much bigger and stronger than others, but Porter often used finesse to finish plays. He showed that he can be much more than just a guy who can use strength to drive inside and finish at the hoop.
There aren’t going to be many clips available to breakdown because most is high school footage, but in this one Porter uses his smooth jump shot to hit a three pointer over his defender. The form looks very clean, no hitches and a release that comes out of his hands at the highest point.
A concern after his injury is that Porter’s jump shot may look different to compensate for any pain he was dealing with, but in the clip above the shot still looks intact. He doesn’t rely as heavily on his three point shot as other wing prospects might, he makes his biggest impact in the mid range game and around the basket. The NBA has changed into a three point heavy league, so for Porter to become a dominant player he will have to make defenses respect his outside shot. With the shooting form he showed in high school and his short time in college there is no reason to expect Porter won’t have a dangerous outside game.
I’ve said it before, but for this prospect it takes on a whole new meaning, stats can be thrown out the window. When it comes to Michael Porter Jr., he doesn’t have enough college experience to justify picking him. Right now Porter is a pick completely based on potential.
The potential is there for him to become a player that can be an elite level scorer and difference maker on both ends. He looks comfortable inside and out, against both bigger and smaller defenders, and that makes him a dangerous player. Porter isn't the greatest player running an offense with the ball in his hands, but he is competent and can find open players. Defenders have to account for all the ways he can score on them, and that makes getting teammates open shots that much easier. When not having to make plays on ball, Porter battles down low for rebounds. His body type is the most pro ready of any wing prospect in the draft, he is big enough to move people out of the way but lanky enough to just get higher than others to get a rebound. Simply put, he can do it all.
Most prospects that are options for the Sixers with the tenth pick have plenty to work on, and while Porter isn’t a finished product either, he is closest to getting there. He is a blue chip talent that shouldn’t be available, but because of these concerns there is a slight chance that he is. If you take him, you’re taking a gigantic chance, but there is also a very good possibility that he can become an elite level scorer for one lucky team.
Michael Porter Jr. didn’t show a ton on the defensive end in college, but he has the build to be a solid defender at the next level. Standing at 6’10” with a 7’0” wingspan and a 9’0” standing reach, he has the ability to switch onto multiple positions at the professional level. He is most suited to defend against his original position of small forward, but he also has the looks of someone who can switch up to guard a power forward thanks to his extra muscle. He is the same weight (215 lbs) as Kevin Knox, but on tape he just looks to have a larger frame. That may be in part to him playing more inside and banging bodies, but Porter has shown that he can endure a physical battle against bigger players. Something we hadn’t seen at the collegiate level because of his injury was an ability to defend both down low and at the perimeter, mainly because he wasn’t in game shape. Once he is in peak shape he should be able to show his ability to guard anywhere on the court because of his combination of height and speed. Defense may not be what he is going to be known for in the NBA, but he has the look of a player who should help his team and not hurt them.
If Porter is available with the tenth pick in the draft the Sixers need to pounce on a player that could be a starter from day one. With that said, the team would also need to make some decisions when it comes to the starting lineup if he does become a part of future plans. A player of Porter’s caliber doesn't fall in the draft often, and a move may have to be made to accommodate him being brought in.
A trade might not necessarily be the case, but a move to the bench for Robert Covington could be the answer. A lackluster playoff run by the small forward saw many sour on him, but he should still be looked at as a building block for the young Sixers. Later in the playoffs Covington was used off of the bench, a shocking move, but one that worked well. Covington’s stellar defense and ability to make tough three pointers helped a Sixers second unit in need of consistency. Moving the small forward with a large contract to the bench would be a tough pill to swallow, but doing it in favor of a potential superstar at the position would make things a bit easier.
The addition of Michael Porter Jr., just like any other wing prospect, would make the Sixers a deeper team. But unlike the other prospects, him fitting into the starting lineup would make the Sixers an even more dangerous team because of the ability for the team to bring a first team all-defense level player off of the bench.
Let’s be honest, Michael Porter Jr. most likely isn’t going to be wearing a Sixers uniform after the draft. The best case scenario for Philadelphia would be him falling because of concerns over his health and lack of college tape, but the upside is just too high for nine teams to pass up on before getting to the Sixers. I am projecting Porter to be selected with the sixth pick in the first round by the Orlando Magic, forcing the Chicago Bulls to go with Plan B and select another player the Sixers would love to have in Mikal Bridges. A run on top wing position players could start right before Philadelphia goes on the clock, so the Sixers must be wise with what position they go after with the tenth pick. Porter would give the Sixers another top tier weapon on their mission for a deep playoff run, but he is simply too good to be available at tenth overall.