The return of Michael Porter Jr. sent shockwaves across college basketball and celebrations around Missouri as the Tigers will have their star player back for what could be a memorable postseason run.
Porter’s return, which Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin said will happen Thursday during Missouri's opening game in the SEC Tournament, is seen through different lenses by opposing coaches and pro scouts.
Originally projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in June’s NBA Draft before having back surgery, Porter dropped out of the top five in most reliable draft projections over the course of the college basketball season.
NBA executives recently told ESPN that it would be in Porter’s best interest to play once healthy so he could show what he can do and potentially improve his stock.
Scouts from NBA teams who spoke to The Star on Wednesday were mixed on the 6-foot-10 forward’s return.
“Risky timing,” one scout said, adding that Porter’s return for the postseason is so late that it could potentially hurt his stock. He thought Porter was in a better position to shut down any idea of a return.
But another scout disagreed.
“The upside outweighs the downside,” he said. Scouts aren’t allowed to publicly discuss the players they are evaluating.
The second scout said if Porter plays well in Missouri’s remaining games, his stock could go as high as No. 2 overall.
Should Porter have a bad game, the scout argued, he can always say he was still kicking off the rust from being out so long.
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson has known Porter since his days coaching at Missouri and remembers chasing Porter and his siblings out of Mizzou Arena when they were all little kids.
The Razorbacks lost to Missouri on Saturday in the final game of the regular season and Anderson said on Tuesday that Porter's return helps a team that’s already playing well.
“Of course he’s a tremendous player,” he said. “He brings some athletic ability and he’s an elite player.”
Anderson said the fact that Porter has only played two minutes of college basketball adds a level of intrigue because he’s barely played.
Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said after Missouri’s Feb. 27 win in Nashville that he prepared for the game as if Porter would play and thought a return from him would make Missouri a dangerous team.
“You could just tell he’s a special talent by watching him warmup,” he said at the time. “If he comes back it’s only going to make them better for a stretch run.”