Michael Porter Jr. was ranked as the second-best high school prospect in the nation back in 2017. After playing only three games in college, Porter Jr. fell to the end of the lottery due to injury concerns that teams had. Almost three years later, those teams are regretting that decision. It’s safe to say Porter Jr. is the steal of the 2018 NBA Draft.
The Steal of the 2018 NBA Draft
Porter Jr. was ranked behind Marvin Bagley III as the second-best prospect coming out of high school in 2017. Originally committed to the University of Washington, Porter Jr. switched his commitment to the University of Missouri after his father got fired and then rehired from the two aforementioned schools. He then had back surgery just one game into his freshman season due to herniated discs in his back. This problem had reportedly been bothering Porter Jr. since high school. He returned for two games at the end of the season but was not that effective for the Tigers. Clearly, he was still recovering from the injury.
As the draft approached, teams were skeptical of Porter Jr. because of his back surgery and poor play in college. He also had to cancel a pre-draft workout due to muscle spasms. He was labeled as a prospect with top-three talent but with high risk. Looking at mock drafts from 2018, most of them had him going within the top-10, some even the top-five. Porter Jr. ended up going 14th overall to the Denver Nuggets. His draft stock dropping was one of the biggest stories of draft night. Some notable busts, or players dangerously close to that label, taken in front of him are Kevin Knox (ninth overall) to the New York Knicks and Jerome Robinson (13th overall) to the Los Angeles Clippers.
After being drafted by the Nuggets, Porter Jr. underwent a second back surgery the following month. His second back surgery sidelined Porter Jr. for his entire rookie campaign. In his second season, Porter Jr. showed flashes of his talent but struggled to find playing time on a Nuggets team that had lots of depth. The 2020 NBA Bubble changed everything.
He averaged 14.2 points and 7.2 rebounds on 50 percent shooting in 26 games in the NBA Bubble. Porter Jr. was hyped as a breakout candidate coming into this season but struggled with consistency over the first half of the season. Over the past month, however, he is showing that he is a star in the making. Since March 17th, he is averaging 21.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
Porter Jr. was considered a top-three draft talent in the 2018 draft despite all of the teams that were skeptical of his back problems. It turns out that all that was needed was patience, a luxury that the Nuggets were able to afford since they already had such a great team. A number of first-round picks in the NBA Draft may turn out to be either mediocre or bad. This is why taking a gamble on somebody like Porter Jr., who possesses elite upside, is worth the risk. While it was expected that Porter Jr. would not be one of the first picks taken, it is still perplexing as to how he fell to 14th. Still only 22-years-old, the teams that passed on Porter Jr. will regret their decision for years to come.
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