In advance of the 2018 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down prospects, both from the college ranks and internationally, with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks will be evaluating in the coming days. More than 50 prospects will be profiled in this space and, in the end, the goal is to inform Hawks fans prior to June 21, when the Hawks are scheduled to make four selections with the first 34 picks.
Today’s breakdown takes a glance at Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr.
Michael Porter Jr. was considered to be potentially the most gifted player in this draft class before the beginning of the 2017-18 NCAA season. He has a unique combination of size, length and skill. But due to numerous injuries and the time he needed to recover, evaluators have had little opportunity to see him play in the most of competitive environments.
He did come back and take the risk to play for Missouri in both the SEC conference tournament and NCAA tournament play, when virtually no one expected him to do so. The Tigers exited both tournaments after a single game, with respective losses to Georgia and Florida State. It’s unlikely from an evaluation perspective that there is much if anything to take from his performance in those games apart from his willingness to play with little opportunity to shake off the rust and to get into game shape.
He’s more of a fluid than an explosive athlete at this point. although it’s challenging to determine if he might have demonstrated a little more as a dynamic prospect had he not missed so much time. He’s not nearly as strong as he will need to be, especially in his lower half, if he is to deliver on his fullest potential.
Porter was considered to have possibly the greatest scoring prowess as this class of players were working their way through pre-collegiate levels of play. Although he never displayed it consistently, it was widely accepted that he could be an elite shooter off of the dribble. And when considering his length and incredibly high release point, it’s easy to project how much of a problem that would be for defensive opponents.
There seems to continue to be a consensus that he is more likely than not to develop a pretty special ability to create his own shot. With that said, his face-up game is pretty simplistic at this point, and he has not shown that he is strong enough to function in the post playing with his back to the basket.
At his size, Porter Jr. should have the ability to see the entire half court offense when playing on the wing such that he could see every available passing lane. But he seems to be very focused on working to get his own shot and has not demonstrated even modest passing skills.
He runs the floor hard in transition and in early in the shot clock. His ability to function as a rim runner in space might be his most NBA ready skill. But when operating in traffic, he has not demonstrated much craft nor explosiveness at the rim.
If Porter Jr. is ever to become his team’s best offensive player operating at the point of attack, he is going to need to tighten up his handle. He seems to have good feel overall so if he is willing to put in the work that should be the one area of his game that should be easiest to improve.
This defensive end of the court is from where a lot of the questions come. And it starts with the basic things like interest, engagement and a willingness to work in what some young players consider to be a less rewarding area of the game.
He’s not quite as fluid of an athlete when he his moving laterally. As such, Porter Jr.’s best positional fit as a defender is very much in question.
Ideally, he would be able to consistently defend at the power forward position. All indications are that he should be a good enough rebounder to handle that. But defending NBA big men in the post will require him to get significantly stronger. So the question lingers as to whether or not he will be motivated enough to put in the work to achieve that physical development.
At lower levels, he did demonstrate good instincts and execution as a weak side rim protector. But if that is the role he is asked to fill early in his NBA career, it will be a challenge for him to avoid foul trouble.
It seems almost a given that he will Porter Jr. drafted within two to three spots after the players broadly considered to be in the top two tiers (Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson Jr., Mo Bamba Bamba and, potentially, Trae Young are taken). But the front office leadership in Orlando is made up of the former Milwaukee front office that were famous for being willing to take risks on lanky athletes with questions about the amount of skill the prospects possess. So it would not be shocking to see him selected there.
Finally, Porter and his representatives made the decision to allow only Chicago to evaluate him medically and they are currently slotted at the seventh spot which just happens to be the first pick after the presumed top six prospects will be selected. But if Chicago decides to go in a different direction he could be the one player in this draft class that could fall significantly.