Michael Porter Jr. will likely miss the remainder of the college basketball season for the Missouri Tigers after suffering a back injury.
The 19-year-old forward will have spinal surgery after playing a total of just two minutes in the NCAA. It’s not good news for 2017’s Gatorade National Basketball Player of the Year, who was considered a consensus top-five pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Some may worry about what the limited sample size of playing time means for his draft stock. But many professional franchises have already done their due diligence when it comes to watching him play against top competition.
Porter has consistently been one of the most scouted prospects in this draft class. Many front offices had representation to watch him against Kansas in a preseason exhibition game when he scored 23 points. He also participated in the McDonald’s All-American game and took him Most Valuable Player.
Recent success from European prospect Luka Doncic might make him the first player selected in the 2018 NBA Draft. But ESPN’s Jeff Goodman has heard from “multiple” general managers that a team with a top pick may still take a chance on Porter given what they have already seen
Moke Hamilton was told a similar sentiment when he spoke with another inside source (via USA TODAY Sports Media Group):
“A prominent agent tells me that if Porter were his client, he’d have him declare for the draft, anyway… Meet with teams, do interviews and physicals, but no on-court stuff … [The agent] believes Porter will be selected between No. 5 and No. 7.”
Porter may have been suffering from this issue for longer than many have realized, as he missed the Jordan Brand Classic with “back soreness” last spring.
The injury is expected to have a three-to-four month recovery window after surgery, yet the draft is still seven months away. Plus, it is fairly common for professional basketball players. According to In Street Clothes, 75 percent of NBA athletes have required discectomy reported back-related issues.
Pre-draft valuations, as always, will hinge on what is determined by doctors and medical staffs.
As such, it’s possible he does not give his medical information to a team he does not feel comfortable playing for next season. Recall that Dennis Smith Jr. reportedly did not provide medical information to the Knicks before the season.
There’s also a much smaller chance Porter decides to return to Missouri for another season. He will retain his amateur eligibility so long as he does not hire an agent. In that case, he could get healthy and then take over as the top player in the 2019 NBA Draft.
His younger brother, Jontay Porter, classified up one year in an effort to play college basketball alongside the young star. He also has two sisters on the Missouri Women’s Basketball roster and his father is on the basketball coaching staff.
The most realistic comparison to this situation, however, is Joel Embiid. While he had a broken foot and back issues, he was still selected at No. 3 overall based on his superstar potential. Don’t be surprised if Porter has a similar trajectory.