With the 2018 NBA Draft looming Thursday, Michael Porter Jr. awaits his unpredictable fate. Questions surrounding his health in the past year or so have made teams around the league hesitate on whether or not to take the 6-foot-11 Missouri forward. He could go anywhere in the draft because of it, and will be prepared to play anywhere. Here’s how Porter would fit with each team in the lottery:
Pick: 1st Overall
Overall Fit: C+
Although it seems just about a done-deal Phoenix will go with Arizona center DeAndre Ayton first overall, nothing is final until Ayton walks across the stage Thursday night donning a Suns cap.
Phoenix has an established shooting guard in Devin Booker that looks to be a rising star in the league with tremendous scoring ability. Pair that with a young pass-first point guard in Elfrid Payton and an athletic slashing forward like Josh Jackson, this team has a fairly decent future. Their two needs, though, are another true scorer and a big man.
At just under 7-feet tall, Porter can fill both of those needs. However, Porter’s strength and ability to bang down-low with his history of injuries are question marks to how he’d fit in as a stretch power forward.
While his scoring complements the young talent Phoenix already has, Porter wouldn’t be a great match as they may force him to the stretch-four position.
Pick: 2nd Overall
Overall Fit: A+
Out of any NBA team, Porter would fit best with the Kings. Sure, they don’t have the best track record for developing talent, but they have a bundle of promising young players ready to turn Golden 1 Center to the same raucous atmosphere Arco Arena once had.
De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic (2017 Rising Stars Challenge MVP) highlight a talented backcourt that was part of taking down the Golden State Warriors twice in 2018. Fox and Bogdanovic provide a nice combination of slashing, athletic ability and knock-down 3-point-shooting, while Hield is a bucket waiting to happen coming off the bench. The three of them are an incredibly promising, young backcourt that have the potential to become something special.
Don’t forget about Willie Cauley-Stein, Justin Jackson, Skal Labissiere and Harry Giles, either. Cauley-Stein still has room to improve on the defensive end, but is a rebound machine. Giles, the top-ranked player in the 2016 recruiting class, didn’t see the floor in 2017-18 as a result of a torn ACL, but those around Sacramento believe he’s going to excel in the coming seasons.
All that being said, the Kings still have one need: a true scorer at the small forward position. While some teams may look at Porter’s height and try to mold him into a stretch-four, that’s not his game. He thrives on being a team’s best scorer, but also isn’t the only viable option offensively. The Kings firepower with Fox and Bogdanovic complement Porter’s game beautifully.
If Porter goes to the Kings and stays healthy, he could be the key cog in a young, exciting team aspiring for its first playoff berth since 2006.
Pick: 3rd Overall
Overall Fit: B+
The Hawks are the only awful team in the NBA that seems to have a bleak future. They don’t have any real promising young players after giving away all their talented players in the last year or so.
While this sort of environment isn’t healthy for a fan base, it sure can enhance development of younger players and gives some leeway on how the team plays. Porter only played two games for Missouri in his freshman year and just needs to play more, and would have the ability to play the game just the way he likes.
If Atlanta drafts Porter, he’d immediately play 30-plus minutes per game, giving him more reps to develop into the elite-scoring, star player many projected him to be out of high school.
Porter could help a team trying to find an identity and eventually become the centerpiece of a rebuilding franchise.
Playing that many minutes may not be good for someone that seems somewhat injury-prone. That could prove to be detrimental, but if Porter can avoid getting hurt, this could be a very solid match.
Pick: 4th Overall
Overall Fit: B
The Grit ‘N Grind philosophy that helped the Grizzlies make a deep run in the 2013 Western Conference Finals is starting to come to an end. Zach Randolph and Tony Allen moved on from Memphis, while Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are aging. This opens up a need for young talent with a rebuilding Grizzlies team — a team that already boasts a pair of great veteran mentors in Gasol and Conley.
Oregon standout Dillon Brooks made some noise last season in his first year, as well as Tyreke Evans having a nice comeback season. Even with this sub-30-year-old talent, the Grizzlies lack a young piece to build around for the future.
That’s where Porter comes in.
Just like any other team needing a high-ceiling rookie, Porter could bring excitement to a Memphis fan-base eager for success after Gasol and Conley retire. He’d fit in well with the Grizzlies by playing alongside a solid distributor in Conley and having Gasol teach him how to hone in on his toughness.
Porter would come off the bench at first, learning how to play a stretch-4 that mimics Gasol’s game, but would eventually work his way to being the team’s primary scorer at his natural position. It’d be very interesting to see if Memphis would take advantage of Porter’s long frame defensively or try to unmask his raw offensive talent.
Pick: 5th Overall
Overall Fit: B+
Dirk Nowitzki turned 40 on Tuesday, which means Mark Cuban and co. have to find out what their future without him will look like.
They struck gold with point guard Dennis Smith Jr. with the ninth pick of the 2017 NBA Draft, and look to be in prime position to make another impactful pick in 2018.
Although Dallas traded for Warriors small forward Harrison Barnes just two offseasons ago, he hasn’t been quite the player they hoped. As the No. 1 player out of high school, Barnes has had a productive career, just not dominant.
If the Mavericks select Porter with the fifth overall pick Thursday, they’d immediately have another young scorer to pair with Smith. His ability to drive to the basket, or step back and knock down shots will keep teams more honest with Smith and Barnes, allowing them to get more open looks — not to mention he could learn some nasty step-backs and fade-aways from Nowitzki.
If Porter can put his injuries aside and develop into the elite scorer he can be, Barnes could move back to a sixth man role — one in which he thrived during Golden State’s 2015 Championship run. With a young core of Porter, Smith and Barnes, the Mavericks could be just one piece away.
Pick: 6th Overall
Overall Fit: D+
A lot of mock drafts have Orlando selecting Porter with the sixth overall pick. Although the Magic’s intrigue makes sense, drafting him might blow up in their faces.
With a pair of talented bigs in Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon, adding another guy at 6-foot-11 wouldn’t be the best idea. Sure, Porter doesn’t play like a big-man because of his ability to shoot and handle the ball like a guard, but this just doesn’t seem like a good fit.
Orlando experimented starting Gordon at small forward in 2017-18, and he did a lot better than people thought. That being said, he’s two inches shorter than Porter and would probably stay at small forward, forcing Porter to play as a stretch-four — something he’s not cut out for right off the bat.
Physically, his back and hip injuries hinder his ability to hang down-low with bigger, stronger big-men. That combined with a somewhat undeveloped 3-point shot suggests Porter won’t be productive playing at a stretch-four just yet. If the Magic do this, it could spell for the eventual demise of Porter’s career.
Pick: 7th Overall
Overall Fit: A+
Porter has been in Chicago ever since declaring for the draft, and would be extremely lucky if he were able to stay in the Windy City.
The Bulls young core of point guard Kris Dunn, shooting guard Zach Lavine and power forward Lauri Markanen looks to have a solid future. They have a good distributor in Dunn, a dynamic, athletic guard in Lavine and one of the best surprise rookies in 2017-18 in Markanen. Something they’re missing is a wing that can score in a variety of ways.
Enter Porter Jr.
Chicago out-performed expectations last season in a system that highlights moving the basketball around. Porter would find more open looks in this, enhancing his offensive skillset.
His personality fits a big-time market like Chicago and he can make himself the centerpiece of a rebuilding Bulls team looking to get back to some former glory. This would be a seamless fit for Porter and the city of Chicago.
Cleveland Cavaliers (via Nets)
Pick: 8th Overall
Overall Fit: A
This entire analysis is assuming LeBron James is going to stay in Cleveland. He wouldn’t possibly want to become the villain again, would he?
James and the Cavaliers recently lost to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, and are looking for a missing piece to get over the hump. There have been rumors of a trade for Kawhi Leonard or signing Paul George this offseason, but one of the best fits could come through the draft with Cleveland’s pick at No. 8.
James could help mold Porter into the player many thought he could become: a long, scoring wing with the ability to block shots and do some work down-low. He would more than likely assume the same role Jeff Green had down the stretch for Cleveland, as a tall, athletic scorer off the bench to complement James.
Growing and learning under James is one way Porter could reach his full potential, and it will be interesting to see what happens if he’s still around when Cleveland is on the clock.
New York Knicks
Pick: 9th Overall
Overall Fit: C-
Many experts have Porter’s AAU teammate, Trae Young, going to New York at No. 9. While Porter may be the better player, Young meshes with the Knicks much better.
Porter’s personality fits in with New York well, but his game doesn’t. Much like Orlando, New York already has a pair of talented, young bigs in Kristaps Porzingis and Enes Kanter. Throwing another 7-footer into the mix would take up too much space.
If Porter falls to No. 9, don’t be surprised if the Knicks select the Missouri forward, strictly based on the team’s lack of talent. His game would be much too limited in New York, and Porter could very well go down as a bust because of it.
Philadelphia 76ers (via Lakers)
Pick: 10th Overall
Overall Fit: C
The process is over for the 76ers, as the they notched the third seed in the East. Porter could fit quite well with Philadelphia, but only as a sixth man.
If he were to share the floor with Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, there would be way too much size to be productive. Molding into a stretch-four is the only way Porter could play well with the 76ers, and his future in the NBA may not be as that.
However, Porter could be a lethal sixth man for Philadelphia if he would be fine with that role. Something the 76ers are missing other than a pure scorer is someone to provide a spark off the bench. If Porter falls this late he could serve as just that, but it would hinder his development greatly.
Pick: 11th Overall
Overall Fit: A-
The Hornets have a fairly deep backcourt with Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lamb. Not to mention a 2017 draft pick in Malik Monk that, if he progresses further than he has so far, can be a lethal scorer off the bench.
That being said, Charlotte is weak at the forward position. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been somewhat of a bust after being selected second overall in 2012 because of his one-dimensional offensive game. Marvin Williams and Frank Kaminsky are a decent pair that share time at power forward, but the Hornets lack a forward that can complement Walker’s scoring ability.
Porter would add an immediate threat to Charlotte’s offense, as he can rise up and shoot over smaller defenders, slash inside for buckets and create his own shot off the dribble. He’s a combination of what Walker and Batum do best and would fit like a tailored suit. Although Kidd-Gilchrist would more than likely get replaced by Porter, he could teach the rookie how to play more physical defense, raising his ceiling even higher.
It’s doubtful Porter will fall outside of the top 10, but if he does, don’t be surprised if he thrives in Charlotte.
Los Angeles Clippers
Picks: 12th & 13th Overall
Overall Fit: C
Aside from DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers roster is a cluster of random players that Doc Rivers put together. The team doesn’t have any set direction it wants to go in as it looks like years of mediocrity are to come.
Tobias Harris was a decent find to start at power forward and Danilo Gallinari is a solid shooter at small forward, but the make-up of this roster doesn’t allow much room for a rookie small forward to play — even a player of Porter’s caliber.
Rivers is one of the better coaches in the league and can groom Porter into being their centerpiece of the future, but Porter needs to be paired with someone who can take the scoring pressure off him. Jordan is an animal on the boards and one of the best centers in the league, but his and Porter’s skillsets don’t match up very well.
If the Clippers trade Jordan and go into full-rebuilding mode, Porter could be a nice building block for the franchise — it doesn’t seem likely that they’re giving up on the playoffs just yet.
Pick: 14th Overall
Overall Fit: A
If the Nuggets didn’t lose to the Timberwolves in the last game of the regular season, they would have made the playoffs in 2018.
Center Nikola Jokic, 23, averaged 18.5 ppg and 10.7 rpg in 2017-18 and is Denver’s clear-cut star. He headlines a young, talented roster that includes Jamal Murray, 21, and Gary Harris, 23, among a slew of other young weapons.
Denver has a deep backcourt that shares the ball extremely well, making it a tough task to focus on slowing down multiple players; not just one man.
Paul Millsap is the main veteran presence on this team, and had a very productive year (14.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.2 bpg) paired down low with Jokic. He’s taken Trey Lyles, 22, under his wing as Lyles is the Nuggets future power forward.
Another key veteran on Denver’s roster is 31-year-old small forward Wilson Chandler. He saw his production drop off dramatically in 2017-18, scoring 5.7 points less per game than in 2016-17. It’s just normal wear-and-tear for an aging forward, but nevertheless the Nuggets young core surely would like a young, scoring small forward as Chandler’s replacement.
There shouldn’t be any way Porter slides all the way down to 14, but if he does he is a perfect fit for a young team just a piece or two away from making a run.
Jack Parodi is a columnist for 590 The Fan and you can find him on Twitter @jack_parodi