After struggling to pick between Michael Porter Jr. and Zhaire Smith at the 14th overall, the Denver Nuggets decided on Porter, the biggest boom or bust prospect in the class.

Porter was the best high school prospect in the entire country entering his freshman season. Early on in his season, Porter sustained a back injury that prevented him from developing and showing off his entire game. His back surgery only allowed him to play in three games in his freshman year, averaging 10.0 points and 6.7 assists per game in 53 total minutes.

It’s hard to project what Porter will look like in the NBA, simply because his medical information is unknown to the public and he played so little. His draft profile released by ESPN this year was short and sweet but focused on his primary selling points.

Physically, Porter looks a lot like Paul George and Danilo Gallinari. George has excellent athleticism at 6’10, while Gallinari’s athleticism has sapped over the years due to…injuries. His ability to play either forward position will be extremely helpful for Denver if he can stay on the court. Denver doesn’t have a player on the team that can physically match up with most of the big wings, and Porter projects to be that player at his ceiling.

Other than his size, Porter offers a versatile scoring profile that Denver surely coveted at forward long term. Players that can create off the dribble are incredibly important, and Porter will provide that, especially at the power forward position.

Ultimately, the offensive benefit of Porter comes down to his ability to make tough shots. At the end of the game, when Denver needs a player to create a shot for themselves, Porter was the best option on the board to provide that. Conceivably, a player with elite potential at doing things that are incredibly valuable in today’s NBA is a solid pick, despite the injury risk.

On defense, it’s difficult to say what Porter will be simply because he hasn’t shown anything. Guarding in high school wasn’t his first priority, and in college, he played 53 total minutes. With his frame, wing span, and athleticism, Porter has the potential to be a solid defender at the NBA level. He will have to dedicate himself to becoming better, but I’m high on his ability to contribute to solid team defense, depending on his engagement level.

Overall, Michael Porter Jr. is a massive risk. Last year, Denver passed on a massive risk with OG Anunoby at 13th overall, and it blew up in their face. This year, Denver is taking the plunge.

His fit with Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris is intriguing. He has number 1 scorer potential, fills a hole at the stretch forward position, and could also bring a degree of defense. Or, he could become selfish and decide he wants to be the face of the franchise, something Denver probably doesn’t need at this point. Or, he could be injured for the rest of his career, and it’s all moot.

At the beginning of the day in my draft primer, I said that Denver needed to take a chance today. I thought that would mean trading up in the draft, but Porter anywhere in the first round is quite possibly a bigger risk than moving up for Doncic. So, I have to give kudos for that. Denver took a chance. It will either blow up in their face…or it will change their franchise for the better for years to come.

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