Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr.
Mizzou forward may be the game-changer Orlando needs in draft
believes he might be the answer the Magic need in the NBA Draft.
CHICAGO — The Orlando Magic won’t be able to select a transcendent player when they pick sixth in the 2018 NBA Draft. A good one? Yes. A franchise cornerstone? No.
At least that’s what conventional wisdom says.
Michael Porter Jr. begs to differ.
The 6-foot-10 University of Missouri forward thinks the Magic, or any other team, would acquire a potential superstar if they select him.
“I’ve played against all these guys,” Porter said Thursday during a session with reporters at the NBA Draft Combine. “They’re all great players. But I’m the best player in this draft and I just can’t wait to show what I’m capable of.”
Porter has reason to feel so self-assured. Many recruiting services ranked him as the top player in his high-school class. He joined Alonzo Mourning, Chris Webber, LeBron James and Dwight Howard as the only player in history to to win the Naismith and Gatorade boys na-
tional player of the year awards and be named the most valuable player of the McDonald’s All-American Game.
But NBA teams have reason to feel skeptical. Porter injured his back early in his college debut, underwent surgery and didn’t play again until Missouri’s final two games, a first-round loss in the SEC Tournament game and a first-round loss in the NCAA Tournament.
The New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers interviewed him on Wednesday or Thursday, and Porter said officials from those teams asked him about his back.
When he spoke with reporters Thursday, he told them the injury may have been a godsend, even if it means he’ll fall a bit in the draft. Porter said he first injured his back between his sophomore and junior years of high school when an opposing player undercut him as he elevated for a dunk. Porter said the injury worsened over the next two years and hampered his play.
He contends the surgery has helped him.
“I think it was a step back to take three steps forward,” Porter said. “I feel like I took a step back, but now I’m able to reach my full potential being out of pain and everything.
“I was hoping to turn college basketball upsidedown, just like a lot of these players: Trae [Young], Deandre [Ayton], Marvin [Bagley III]. But this is just a step in my process of becoming the best player I can be. It’s a little different but I’m more ready than ever. I’ve been dreaming about this NBA stuff for so long. I feel like I’m ready.”
Post-combine workouts with NBA teams likely will be crucial for Porter to prove he’s healthy. Although he isn’t scheduled to interview with the Magic today, the Magic almost certainly will invite him to travel to Orlando for a workout and interviews.
So far in Chicago, the Magic’s interviewees have included Orlando native and swingman Anfernee Simons of IMG Academy, University of Miami swingman Bruce Brown Jr., Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo and Boston College guard Jerome Robinson, those players said.
Ayton, Luka Doncic, Bagley, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Mohamed Bamba all could be selected before Orlando picks at No. 6. If so, the Magic will have a choice: Will they play it safe and pick someone with no prior health issues or take a chance on Porter?
The answer is clear to Porter.
Asked why he thinks he’s the best player in the draft, he responded, “I’ve played against all these guys. They’ve obviously gotten better. They’re all great players. I’m not taking anything away from them. That’s just how I feel. Everybody will know that soon.”
Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. says he’s the best player available in the upcoming NBA Draft.