With the NBA draft quickly approaching, fans across the country are starting to speculate which star their team will select with their first pick. Will he be the next Greg Oden and disappoint an entire city due to injury and wasted potential? Or will he be the next overlooked star like Steph Curry, and lead his team to multiple championships?
Many agree the top 5 prospects are Deandre Ayton (C, Arizona), Luka Doncic (G, Real Madrid), Jaren Jackson (C, Michigan State), Marvin Bagley III (F/C, Duke), and Mohamed Bamba (C, Texas).
But the water is a bit murky after the first 5.
Sports Illustrated’s Big Board has two of the most questionable players in the draft, Michael Porter Jr. and Trae Young, in the 6-10 range. Considering the value of the 3-point shot in today’s game, Trae Young’s sharp-shooting ability outweighs his vulnerability on defense.
However, Michael Porter Jr. is simply not worth gambling on with a top 10 pick. Having only played 53 minutes at Missouri this season due to a back injury, Porter’s potential is more questionable than the ingredients of a McRib.
So why is he still projected to be a top 10 pick? With guard skills at 6’10", 215 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan, the 19-year-old screams NBA potential. He dominated every game in high school and was the #2 recruit behind Marvin Bagley.
But that was high school. And after only 53 minutes of college ball, Michael Porter Jr. thinks he’s ready to be a star in the most competitive league in the world. Even if his offensive skills and athleticism are NBA-ready, we still have no idea if he’ll be able to match up defensively with the NBA’s best.
Oh, and did I mention he’s injury prone? After nursing a back injury all season, Porter returned just in time for the SEC tournament, but it was obvious by his play that he needed more time to get into basketball shape. Then after not participating in the combine, Porter almost cancelled workouts with a few teams because of hip spasms.
This story almost sounds too familiar. An extremely gifted 5-star athlete with the size of a center and the skills of a guard who was plagued by injury throughout his freshman year of college and then suddenly declared for the draft after hardly seeing the floor in college.
Sure sounds a lot like Harry Giles, who was in the same position just one year ago. After having an eye-opening high school career and signing with Duke, the 5-star suffered a second ACL injury, which sidelined him for most of his time as a Blue Devil.
Giles was drafted 20th overall and landed at the Sacramento Kings for his rookie season. But after experiencing more knee troubles, it was clear the young talent was not healthy enough to play during his rookie season.
Yes, there are other instances of injured players being drafted and evolving into great players, most notably Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Yes, there’s a chance Porter will have a perfect recovery leading into a Donovan Mitchell-like rookie season. That’s why many are calling him the biggest wild card in the draft.
But with so many well-rounded prospects this year, is Porter really worth the risk? With the exception of maybe Philadelphia, teams picking in the top 10 need a player who is capable of making an immediate impact. Porter is not what they are looking for.
If you’re looking for a player in the 8-10 range who can come in his first year and bring energy to a program, look no further than Alabama’s Collin Sexton.
He’s young. He’s freaky athletic. He’s a solid defender. He’s a ruthless competitor. And most impressive of all, he led a weak Bama team deep into the SEC and NCAA Tournaments averaging 19.2 PPG on 44.7 percent from the field. Not too shabby.
Another solid player to consider instead of Porter is two-time National Champion Mikael Bridges. While he’s one of the oldest prospects projected in the top 15, I think he’s the safest pick in the entire draft, especially for a team like Philly, where he would not be looked to as a primary scoring option as a rookie.
With Bridges, you’re getting an athletic 6’7" body with a 7’2 wingspan that can knock down 3’s on command. He averaged 17.7 PPG on a championship team while shooting 51.4% from the field and 43.5% from beyond the arc.
So if your team happens to use its top 10 pick on Michael Porter Jr., act like you’re eating a savory McRib from McDonald’s. Embrace the hype and the flavor - questionable as it may be - and pray that your newest draft pick is actually made of the good stuff.
(McLean Albritton is a boarding student at McCallie School and lives in Birmingham, Ala. He has an endless appetite for SEC Football, NCAA Basketball, and Champy’s Famous Fried Chicken. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org)