Michael Porter Jr. apparently didn’t have a lot of fans in the top 13 of the NBA draft but he does have a lot of fans among NBA draft analysts, including CBS Sports senior writer Matt Norlander. Norlander, who wrote a great column this morning about the incredible upside of Denver’s 1st round draft pick, went on the Jim Rome show earlier today and sung Porter’s praises.
“The truth is, when I saw Michael Porter Jr. play before getting to Missouri, he looked like a future number one, number two, number three pick. There was just no doubt about it. He had the size, he had the skill. If you want to take some sort of level below combination of what Durant is capable of and what Jayson Tatum showed a lot of in his rookie year, Michael Porter Jr. is capable of that. He can get to the rim, he can shoot from deep, he can post up, he can face up, he handles the ball well, a pretty solid defender overall.”
But more interesting than the three straight minutes of Norlander ranting and raving about the potential of Porter Jr. was his theory about why the 6’11 scorer fell so far down draft boards in the first place.
“I find this ultra fascinating because he was a victim, I think, of some conspiracy type doubt about his injuries and then...his ego was put on trial publicly in the week leading up to this. and clearly all of this had a compound impact. It was unimaginable in October to picture Michael Porter Jr. not being a top 3 or top 4 pick at worst.”
The ego issues that Norlander is referring to include MPJ’s now famous interview in which he was asked what types of players he has been compared to. Porter responded by first saying that he has heard his game draw comparisons to Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo before saying that it was an honor to be compared to those guys. Some on social media took the opportunity to poke fun at Porter for providing his own comparison and then feeling honored by it.
It was an forgivable misunderstanding and the internet, especially social media, cares little about facts, context, or nuance. In the same way, rumors about Porter being a selfish player took on a life of their own and in the final week before last night’s draft, Porter’s reputation became a question mark in the eyes of certain analysts.
Nonetheless, Porter Jr. may have landed in a perfect spot for him and his own development as a player. The Nuggets are in no rush to get Porter on the court, seemingly willing to allow him to ease back onto the court and into the NBA at his own pace and under the advice of their medical staff. Denver also doesn’t need a savior. NIkola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris have all established themselves as reliable young pieces of a promising core built around unselfishness and a high collective basketball IQ. Porter won’t need to be the blue-chip prospect he’s expected to be from day one and he’ll hopefully find a very important role as a part of a well-balanced roster. Said Norlander:
“What if we look four years form now, and Michael Porter Jr. is one of the top 3 prospects in this drafts. This goes down as one of the all-time gaffes by a number of franchises. And at the same time, you can’t totally blame them for doing that, but I don’t know if there is any excuse for letting him fall to the double-digits because his ceiling is so high and he has such great star potential. It’s still hard to fathom how so many teams passed on him.”