Michael Porter Jr., Missouri’s star freshman, is “likely” out for the season. So what are his options after he recovers from back surgery?
MU said he is “likely” out for the season, and assuming he is, the Tigers should be able to secure a medical redshirt for him. That means, if he chose to play for the Tigers next season, he would still have four years of eligibility.
It’s more likely he uses none of them.
Porter could declare for the 2018 NBA Draft despite only playing in one college game, and “as long as everything checks out with the back, he should be fine,” one NBA scout told The Star. Porter was a projected top-five pick coming into this season and a contender to go No. 1 overall.
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The scout said because Porter came into college as such a celebrated prospect, his lack of playing time should not greatly affect his draft stock. Teams already know the caliber of player they would be drafting if they landed Porter.
“If he’s Jeremiah Tilmon, he’s in a tough predicament,” the scout said, referring to Missouri’s freshman center, who has displayed athleticism and an ability to finish around the rim — but also a knack for committing unnecessary fouls.
“He’s Michael Porter. He’s in a different ball game. He had more to lose by playing.”
If Porter does declare for the NBA Draft, he likely would not participate in its combine. Top prospects typically do not. They instead rely on individual workouts with different franchises.
Most experts consider the potential 2018 draft class to be weaker than last summer’s, which was viewed as perhaps the best since superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony were taken in 2003. So even when considering the potential risk Porter’s back presents, he remains one of the draft’s most enticing prospects.
There is a history of teams using high picks to select top prospects who suffered major injuries before declaring for the draft.
Kyrie Irving played just 11 games for Duke, including three in the NCAA Tournament, because of a toe injury. Still, he left school after his freshman year, and the Cleveland Cavaliers took him No. 1 overall.
When Joel Embiid played for Kansas, he dealt with a back injury that did not require surgery but did cause him to miss the Big 12 and NCAA Tournament. Then, days before the 2014 NBA Draft, he underwent foot surgery that would cause him to miss the following NBA season. The Philadelphia 76ers still took him No. 3 overall.
More recently, former North Carolina State guard Dennis Smith Jr. reportedly opted not to provide the New York Knicks with all of his medical records. The move seemed to indicate that Smith, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament just before his senior year of high school, wanted to dissuade New York from drafting him.
Ambiguity isn’t something NBA franchises like when deciding which young player to offer millions of dollars to, but when a player is as talented as Smith or Porter, he can hold leverage.
“The less he does, the better,” the scout said.