Now that the 2017 draft is over, attention shifts to 2018 where Michael Porter Jr. is battling Luka Doncic for #1 overall, where league executives are allegedly split. I decided to get a taste of Michael Porter Jr. by watching the Nike Hoop Summit where he led team USA with 19 points.
Michael Porter Jr. Scouting Report
Porter is a 6’10” knockdown shooter who rebounds well and has decent athleticism. So it is easy to see why he is labeled as a possible #1, as that baseline of skill makes it sound like he has Kevin Durant upside.
But his warts are apparent in watching him play. He is not particularly smooth, explosive, or advanced with the handle so he struggled to get by defenders and often drove directly into the crowd and hoisted some awkward looking shots. On several occasions he was able to flail and draw free throws, but it appears that and pulling up for jumpers are the only creation he can muster off the dribble.
He does not have good passing instincts, as while he is a willing passer it is with the objective of moving the ball rather than setting up a teammate. For all of the goodness that his shooting presents on offense, his shaky instincts shown in his slashing and passing are going to detract from his shooting goodness.
Defensively he has the size and mobility to make an occasional play, but his awareness is not great as he had lapses where he got caught watching the ball or out of position. On the upside has has great height and moves well and was able to use his tools be useful at times, so it is difficult to judge his defense as either good or bad based on this game. But based on his limited instincts he does not appear to be a stopper on this end and has clear downside.
Porter strongly reminisces of my first time viewing Andrew Wiggins, where it stunned me that people viewed him as a tanking candidate. They have a number of marked similarities as prospects, as Porter essentially has two inches of height and better shooting in lieu of Wiggins’ otherworldly athleticism.
This was just one game, and I cannot yet rule out that he will be good. But elite stars normally stand out to my eye immediately: Joel Embiid and Lonzo Ball were love at first sight, and Karl Anthony Towns, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz were extremely attractive at first blush (even if I have my doubts about the latter two, their talent is undeniable).
Porter is in a class with Andrew Wiggins of putting me in shock that people can look at a prospect like this and somehow believe he is better than prospects like Luka Doncic or Lonzo Ball. I would bet every dollar I own that he is not.
I am not going to call him a likely bust based on a one game eye test, as Andrew Wiggins could have been pretty good if he was able to develop better from his rookie year. But it is difficult to argue that the hype machine be given any benefit of the doubt to treat Porter as anything remotely special this early.
No Proof of Goodness Means More Downside
The fact of the matter is that the draft hype machine has not exactly been nailing NCAA top 3’s a year ahead of time lately
2014: Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle
2015: Jahlil Okafor, Emmanuel Mudiay, Stanley Johnson
2016: Ben Simmons, Skal Labissiere, Jaylen Brown
2017: Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson
8 of those 12 have playing at least one NBA season, and all look disappointing relative to hype. Simmons, Tatum, and Jackson are the only ones with clear star potential, and none of them are guarantees.
If you randomly select a player from this pile, he is more likely than not to be an ordinary, meh NBA player. It is extremely difficult to predict NBA success without observation vs. NCAA or professional competition. Intuitively Porter, Ayton, and Bamba do not seem any better than prior early top 3’s, and are each more likely to be below average NBA players than good starters.
How Does Porter Compare to 2017?
Everybody who thinks Porter should go #1 in 2017 is crazy. It would be terrible if any of Porter, Ayton, or Bamba were chosen in this year’s top 6, as it was a especially good top 6 (Fultz, Ball, Tatum, Jackson, Fox, Isaac) who all showed strong potential vs. NCAA competition compared to 19 y/o’s who have been feasting on 17 and 18 y/o’s.
I would also take Real Madrid star Luka Doncic over all 3 prospects combined, as he has been one of the best players in the second best professional league behind the NBA, all at a younger age than these guys as high school seniors. It may seem crazy now, but in a few years it will not.
I know these are many piping hot takes at once, but if nothing else they will be fun to re-visit in a few years. On to the rankings:
Tier 1: Basketball God
1. Luka Doncic 6’8″ Real Madrid
I still need to watch him before singing his praises too loudly, but he is 6’8″, athletic, super skilled, and smart and has clear GOAT potential. It is difficult to see him failing, and there is no reasonable argument that anybody else should even sniff #1.
Tier 2: Regular Basketball Players
2. Collin Sexton, 6’2″ Freshman, Alabama
Sexton is the only player in the Hoop Summit who glowed to my eye. He is incredibly athletic, smooth, and shifty, and has strong potential as a slasher. He also showed legitimate passing and vision, and can be a pest on defense and was willing to battle with bigs for rebounds.
It is difficult to get too excited for a 6’2″ player this far from the draft, and Sexton does seem to be a risk of taking poor shots and over gambling on defense. But he is the only player in the Hoop Summit who looked like a possible future star, so he gets my #2 slot.
3. Wendell Carter, 6’10” Freshman, Duke
Carter was more quiet than I had hoped in the Hoop Summit, but it is still easy to see him being good. He has a 7’3″+ wingspan which gives him potential to play center in the NBA, and he seems to be above average at everything.
The main thing holding him back from top 3 hype is lack of elite explosiveness, but he is a good, well rounded basketball player who is almost a year younger than each of Ayton, Bamba, and Porter.
4. DeAndre Ayton, 7’0″ Freshman, Arizona
Ayton did not play in the Hoop Summit, so my eyes have yet to qualify him. I have my doubts about him as he has a reputation for not caring a ton, but he has monster height and a 7’5″ wingspan with real talent, so I will see how he looks for Arizona before passing firm judgment.
5. Mohamed Bamba, 7’0″ Freshman, Texas
Bamba has a 7’9″ wingspan and projects to be a force defensively, and he did look impressive on that end at the Hoop Summit. Unfortunately, he looked like a zero offensively as he cannot handle and his touch around the rim looked bad.
On the upside he can make FT’s and the announcers were saying his touch is normally good, so if he can at least make shots offensively he has upside to be a Rudy Gobert or Tyson Chandler type.
6. Michael Porter Jr., 6’10” Freshman, Missouri
As I have detailed, I do not believe he is great. Maybe he is nevertheless good, but at this juncture there is no compelling reason to believe that he is anything other than an ordinary top 10 prospect.
That said this is a low confidence opinion, and it will be easier to have a grasp on him when he plays for Missouri. By draft time it is possible I will move him up into the top 3, or he may be out of the top 10. It could go either way.
7. Ethan Happ, 6’9″ Junior, Wisconsin
Happ hardly has any draft hype, as he is only ranked 36th on DraftExpress. The knock on him is that he is a traditional white PF who cannot shoot and lacks explosive athleticism, so he is getting overlooked as a draft prospect.
But people are wrong to overlook him, as he is a stud at everything but shooting. He may not be a leaper but he moves his feet well, and at 6’9″ he is an elite handler, passer, rebounder, and defensive player who excels at everything except scoring from a distance. At age 21 with a 57% FT you have to be worried about his shot, and it is genuinely a major wart.
But given how elite the rest of his profile is, I would happily gamble on it all working out.
8. DeAnthony Melton, 6’4″ Sophomore, USC
DeAnthony Melton completely stuffed the statsheet as an 18 year old freshman, as he racked up rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. He has exceptional instincts to go with great length and quickness, and has the foundation to be a star combo guard.
The downside is that he still has a long way to go to fit in offensively as he posted just a 33rd percentile half court efficiency on low usage as a freshman. He still is not a reliable 3P shooter at 28% and he cannot yet create against a set defense.
If Melton makes a major offensive leap as a sophomore he has star upside, otherwise he is an intriguing role player.
While Melton and Happ have their share of flaws, they also have unique strengths to help them overcome. Don’t be surprised when one of the duo is a better pro than Michael Porter Jr.
9. Robert Williams, 6’9″ Sophomore, Texas A&M
The Aggies had no point guard this past season and all of their returners badly regressed. Now that they have help at the position, Williams who excels at moving off the ball and finishing may see a big sophomore breakout.
10. Miles Bridges, 6’6″ Sophomore, Michigan St.
Bridges is smooth and athletic, and coming off a good freshman season for Michigan State where he did a bit of everything.
The only worry with Bridges is that his dimensions are a bit weak as he last measured 6’6.25″ with a 6’8.75″ wingspan. Given that he also had a mediocre efficiency, he will have extra worry about his ability to be an efficient NBA player without better combine measurements.
11. Jarred Vanderbilt, 6’9″ Freshman, Kentucky
Vanderbilt was the surprise star of the Hoop Summit, and he has strong feel for the game with excellent rebounding and passing. He also is able to make plays on defense and is one of the younger members of the class having recently turned 18.
His downside is that he is a poor shooter, and does not look like an elite defensive stopper to make his shot worth stomaching. But I would nevertheless not be surprised if he emerges as the best freshman in the class.
12. Jaren Jackson Jr., 6’10” Freshman, Michigan St.
Jackson is still just 17 and has good physical tools for a big, and made a number of impressive finishes and defensive plays in the Hoop Summit. He also has traces of an outside shot, and is another player who has potential to climb my board by the draft. While the freshman class lacks a likely star, there is a significant cluster of players that have a chance of shining in NCAA.
I only have Jackson 12th because he appears to be a role player with questionable instincts, but he could just as easily be argued to be much higher.
13. Troy Brown, 6’6″ Freshman, Oregon
Brown is the super role player of the class, as he has a 6’11” wingspan and made some impressive passes for a wing in the Hoop Summit. He also competed and moved his feet well defensively and at 17 is one of the youngest players in the class.
He is a prototypical 3 + D wing, as his only weaknesses are lack of elite athleticism and scoring ability. This does inhibit his upside, but if teams pay this too much attention he could be a steal in the back end of the lottery.
Overall I believe the freshman class should be seen as 5 good but not great prospects battling for #2 (Sexton, Carter, Ayton, Bamba, Porter) with Vanderbilt, Jackson, and Brown right behind them as role players with sneaky potential.
Tier 3: The Rest
14. Mikal Bridges, 6’8″ Junior, Villanova
15. Bruce Brown, 6’4″ Sophomore, Miami FL
16. Andrew Jones, 6’4″ Sophomore, Texas
17. Hamidou Diallo, 6’5″ Freshman, Kentucky
18. Emmanuel Akot, 6’8″ Freshman, Arizona
19. Mitchell Robinson, 6’11” Freshman, Western Kentucky
20. Markis McDuffie, 6’8″ Junior, Wichita St.
21. Jacob Evans, 6’6″ Junior, Cincinnati
22. Rawle Alkins, 6’5″ Sophomore, Arizona
23. Tyler Hall, 6’4″ Junior, Montana St.
24. Shamorie Ponds, 6’0″ Sophomore, St. John’s
25. Gary Clark, 6’7″ Senior, Cincinnati
26. Trent Forrest, 6’5″ Sophomore, Florida St.
27. Bryant Crawford, 6’3″ Junior, Wake Forest
28. John Petty, 6’6″ Freshman, Alabama
29. Kevin Huerter, 6’6″ Sophomore, Maryland
30. Kevin Hervey, 6’7″ Senior, UT Arlington