Michael Porter Jr. played just 53 minutes in three games during his lone year at Missouri, but he wasn’t shy on Thursday when asked where he sees himself among the 2018 NBA Draft’s top prospects.
“I know without a doubt that I’m the — I played against all these guys, they’re all great players — but I’m the best player in this draft,” Porter told reporters at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. “I just can’t wait to show what I’m capable of.”
Considered by many to be the top prospect in his class coming out of high school, Porter exited his first collegiate game in November after just two minutes due to a back injury that required surgery and was expected to keep him out for the rest of the campaign. He returned in early March for the Southeastern Conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament, tallying 28 points and 18 rebounds in 51 minutes as Missouri lost in the first round of both events.
Porter, who turns 20 next month, said Thursday that he initially hurt his back a few years ago. He added he is now “100 percent” after not feeling that way during his final high school seasons.
“I hurt my back sophomore year of high school, going up for a dunk the guy kind of undercut me, fell on my back,” he said. “I tried to play the next day. I should have just rested. All that compensation (for the injury) in the gym just (made it) worse and worse.
“When I had to have the surgery, I kind of just viewed it as a blessing, like a new start, like I could really reach my full potential. (Experts) had me as the No. 1 player in high school, but I didn’t even feel like I was at 100 percent, but I do now, so I’m just excited to show everybody the player that I am, and I’m still the best player.”
Porter added that he would be comfortable letting teams see his medical records.
“(Doctors) said the (injury) site has healed fully,” he said. “I just got to keep up with my stretching, my core exercises. They think I should be fine.”
Once considered a contender to go No. 1 overall, Porter is widely still expected to go in the top 10, and perhaps in the top five.
He said he has already met with the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns, and he has meeting scheduled for Friday with the Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Sacramento Kings. That group would account for every team but two in the top 13 picks of next month’s draft, and other meetings still could be scheduled.
Referring to his lost freshman season, the 6-foot-10 forward said he was “hoping to turn college basketball upside down” like many fellow freshmen, naming Oklahoma’s Trae Young, Arizona’s Deandre Ayton and Duke’s Marvin Bagley III. He added that he now has “a little chip on my shoulder” to prove himself among his peers once again.
“I played against all these guys,” Porter said. “I know they’ve obviously gotten better. They’re all great players. I’m not taking anything away from them. That’s just how I feel (that I am the best of the class). I feel like everybody will know that soon.”
—Field Level Media