Michael Porter, Jr. was once considered the best player in his class. His back issues have some worried about long-term risks. However, if healthy he reminds me of a certain player when he was 19.
Last year I set the goal of watching all of the top prospects throughout the year to look for signs of growth. When I put together my list, Michael Porter Jr. was near the top. However, in the opening minutes of his first NCAA game Porter went down with an injury. He returned for the SEC and NCAA tournament but was not 100%. Because of this, the only footage available of him comes from high school games and Team USA scrimmages. Despite this I feel like I have enough to make an accurate assessment of his abilities.
Strengths – Shooting
Nobody is going to argue with me on this. Porter’s ability to shoot the basketball is why he is so highly touted. Lazy assessments compare him to Kevin Durant but he is not quite on Durant’s level. Porter is able to get into his shot off the catch or off the bounce. He has a somewhat long full-body release but his height and the fact that he usually fades a bit on his jumper allow him to get the shot off contested. He also multiple release points and shooting angles so he’s a pure bucket-getter that doesn’t necessarily need to be comfortable to get his shot off.
Strengths – Quick hands
Watching Porter, I was going to kill him for his defense but started to notice something. He reminds me of Lonzo a lot in the way he moves and plays. Lonzo is not a great defender but he does have quick hands. Porter also has quick hands which he uses to break up passes or get steals as guys go to blow by him. How successful he’ll be at the next level is a question but he was highly effective previously. His hands somewhat make up for his lack of lateral quickness. I expect that he’ll play a lot of 4 at the next level so I also paid attention to the way he plays defense in the paint. I noticed he does a lot of the Dirk swipe when guarding bigger guys, knowing he couldn’t contest them at the top or hold them off with his body.
Strengths – Playmaking
The final piece of MPJ’s game that I want to highlight is his playmaking. As an elite shooter he’s got to be able to move the ball when defenses close out to him or double. Michael typically moves the ball to the open man. At 6’10”, he can usually make passes over the top and see the whole floor. He’s the type of guy that is going to have about 5 assists per game just based on his expected usage rate. He has very impressive court awareness and throws accurate passes that allow guys to get right into their move or stay in stride.
Opportunities for growth – Inside Scoring
As I mentioned earlier, I see Porter, Jr as a 4. Because of this, he’s going to be the second biggest guy on the floor for his team and will be expected to score inside some. While he can hit pull up jumpers off the dribble and slithers inside when putting the ball on the floor, he’s not a great finisher in traffic. He usually gets bailed out with a foul but in the NBA there are a lot of guys who are bigger and more athletic than him and won’t need to body him to stop him. He’ll need to get a bit tougher inside to round out his game.
I also noticed that when he posts up he usually wants to get into his fade away rather than trying to make a move toward getting a layup. This doesn’t have to be a negative but he’ll want to mix it up to avoid being predictable.
Opportunities for growth – Rebounding
Going back to Porter being a 4, he’ll need to be able to rebound better as well. Currently, he rebounds purely off of his length and ability to get up quickly. He doesn’t typically box out so, again, with bigger and more athletic guys in the NBA he’ll need to change this to remain effective in this area.
Back Issue – The biggest question mark surrounding Porter is his back issue. Initially, his family hid the diagnosis. This was a bad first sign but it did eventually come out that he had a herniated disk. He allegedly had the issue for the past 2-3 years but, regardless, the injury required surgery and kept him out most of the past year. Spinal surgery at 19 is a big deal. Most specialists will tell you that a herniated disk usually will improve through rehab but since Porter opted for surgery his may have been more serious. There was a study conducted on NBA players with herniated disks and the results are below.
- This study looked at 61 players with herniated disks
- 34 had surgery and 27 did not.
- A little under 80% of each were able to return to the game.
- Players who had surgery had lower PER’s and less games played in the first year after surgery.
- However, in year’s 2 and 3 the surgery vs. non-surgery numbers evened out. (PER’s remained lower than they previously were, though slightly)
- Players who had the surgery had longer careers after the injury.
- Taller players had more issues with returning and staying in the league. (Particularly centers).
- The injuries also occured more often in taller players.
Source: US National Library of Medicine
Another thing to look out for would be recurring issues like back spasms which have been known to keep players out of games as well.
As mentioned in previous profiles, the Mavs need help in a lot of areas. The only position I’d completely shy away from was point guard. Porter is a scorer and would immediately add this to the Mavs lineup. As I mentioned I see him as a 4 so you’d draft him as Dirk’s heir. I joked that I had a comp for Porter that I was scared to tweet without full context but that comp is actually young Dirk.
By no means am I saying that Porter is going to have Dirk’s career, but as far as his skill set and playing style he is shades of young Dirk. Porter averaged 36 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists per game in high school. Young Dirk averaged 30, 16, and 9 in the German second division around the same age. This points to their style as tall, unselfish, ball-handling forwards with great jump shots. Porter is an inch shorter than Dirk was at that age and much lighter. Because of the weight difference and what I’ve seen on film, I don’t believe he’s as tough as Dirk on the inside. I’d want to see him become more physical and look to draw fouls when driving or posting up. He already has a difficult shot to block but he could definitely add some of Dirk’s post moves and the sigature fadeaway to take his game to another level.
Defensively, again, he’ll need to improve his rebounding to be anywhere near Dirk but young Dirk was a pretty average rebounder. He already uses his quick hands to get steals and his quickness off the floor to get blocks below or at the rim. In Dirk’s second season he averaged 17 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. He shot 38% from 3 and 83% from the line with about 4 free throws per game. This is about what I’d expect from Porter if he’s healthy, a day 1 starter, and put in the position to be a primary or secondary scoring option.
The biggest gripe people are going to have with this comp is going to be athleticism. I personally believe Porter’s athleticism is overrated and young Dirk’s is forgotten.
Im curious how people are going to feel about this so feel free to roast me on twitter if you disagree… or share if you do agree.
Stay tuned for more. Mikal Bridges is next up. Check the links below for other guys who may be availble for Dallas at the top of the draft.
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