Why the Chicago Bulls need to take Michael Porter Jr in NBA Draft
Let me begin my soliloquy with a basketball brain exercise. Close your eyes and imagine a 6'10 forward, with a 7'4 wingspan, and an impeccable inside and outside game. Give up? If the first name that came into your mind was Kevin Durant, I wouldn't blame you. Shockingly enough, there is a young phenom on the horizon who could potentially be the second coming of KD. His name is Michael Porter Jr, and he could be in a Chicago Bulls uniform in a matter of weeks.
On the night of June 21st, players and front office personnel at the NBA Draft will enter the Barclays Center with much uncertainty. Palms will be sweaty, tears will be shed, and franchise changing picks will be made. The Chicago Bulls are in a prominent position to land a game changing talent with the 7th overall selection. John Paxson and Gar Forman finally decided to take direction with their franchise on draft night last season. Not only did the trade net the Bulls their future backcourt for years to come in Kris Dunn and Zach Lavine, but the trade allowed them to draft all first team NBA rookie Lauri Markkanen as well. With 60% of the young core already filled it is imminent for the Bulls front office to draft Porter Jr's services if available.
Michael Porter Jr entered his freshman season as Mizzou with his head above the clouds. He was already regionally known as one of the top high school prospects heading into college. Since he was 14 years old scouts were raving about Porter Jr's offensive skill set. Although he possess an unorthodox jump shot Porter Jr's outside and inside game are as good as it gets. At 6'10 he can shoot over just about anyone and his tight handles and athleticism create a dynamic path to the basket. Porter Jr is no stranger to prime time as he's been apart of USA basketball since 2014. He started all five games in 2016 as he averaged 15.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and 2.4 APG. In the 2017 McDonald's All American Game, Porter Jr won MVP. The names of potential lottery picks such as Deandre Ayton and Collin Sexton played alongside Porter Jr, but in the end he won MVP. All of this coming before he led Nathan Hale High School to a 29-0 season, which led them to a 3A state title. Porter Jr decimated his competition to a tune of 36.2 PPG and 13.6 RPG on 47% shooting from beyond the three point line. Oh, and to add on to his already never ending list of accomplishments as an 18 year old basketball player, Porter Jr had also won the Gatorade, USA Today, and Naismith Player of the Year.
So how is it possible for Porter Jr to land to the Bulls at #7?
Sadly, Porter Jr's stock in the eyes of many has fallen due to back surgery that he had at the beginning of last season. Back in November, Porter underwent a microdiscetomy of his L3-L4 spinal discs, which resulted in just two minutes of playing time in his inaugural collegiate season. The recovery time for the surgery was estimated at about four months. That would conclude the entirety of the season for Porter Jr and more importantly have people question if he would be the same player coming back from injury.
Thankfully Porter Jr was able to return to the hardwood on March 8th during the SEC Tournament. All things considered Porter Jr looked a shade of his former self as he was playing his first minutes of basketball in months. He played in 51 minutes over 3 games and shot just 9 for 29 from the floor. After shaking the rust off those performances Porter Jr intended to show the scouts he was healthy enough to compete and work back to the player he was before his injury.
As draft time approaches the Bulls internally have to look at their needs on the court. There could not be a more glaring hole in their starting line up than at the small forward position. Last season the small forward position for the Bulls was occupied by Niko Mirotic before his departure to New Orleans. Coach Fred Hoiberg from then on rotated between bench pieces such as Denzel Valentine, Justin Holiday, and David Nwaba to fill that hole. MPJ can not only step right in to that role, he can excel in it.
Hoiberg's offensive mantra for the past three seasons has been to trust his players on taking their own shots. Pick and rolls, screens, kick outs to a man on the perimeter, etc. Porter Jr already possesses the ability to create his own shot, something that only Zach Lavine can occasionally do very well. For a 6'10, 210 pound forward, Porter is the poster child for the quick run-n-gun offense Hoiberg has desperately been craving ever since taking over the helm. Porter has the confidence to stop on a dime to pull up for three on transition, or drive to the paint and finish strong. Porter Jr's overall skill set will allow the Bulls as a team be more versatile instead of the stagnant, non-free flowing team in years past.
The one and only knock that scouts have found with Porter Jr's offense is his inability to create shots with others. Since he isn't projected to be a 6'10 point forward like Ben Simmons, but could end up being a scoring champ one day, I don't think stuffing the stat sheet with assists is Porter's forte. Like most prospects with a dynamic offensive game comes the weaker defensive side. Not to say he isn't able to hold his own, but with Porter at just 210 pounds, a trip to the weight room before the season begins would be ideal. However he is no slouch on the boards. His near 14 RPG in high school only helped create his explosion on the fast break which can accumulate an even more impressive NBA offensive game going forward.
All of Bulls nation on draft night will have their fingers crossed that the roars of "MPJ" will ring throughout the United Center for years to come. If Porter jr does end up in a Bulls uniform an overall change of the team is dynamic. In one draft pick the Bulls would be instantly better from three, in transition, on the fast break and on the boards. The pick of Porter would diversify the offensive game plan as well. Porter's ability to spread the floor will create more opportunities for Lavine on the wing, and guys like Dunn and Markkanen on the pick and roll. This potential athletically fueled lineup for the Bulls could be a mismatch in hell for any opposing team.
With other picks such as Trae Young, Collin Sexton, and Wendell Carter who are arguably more reliable options to draft at this point, Porter has the unthinkable upside the Bulls desperately crave. Think about it: just 5 months ago, Porter was tabbed as the best overall player in the nation. It was unquestionable. If the 6 teams in front of the Bulls decide to over-evaluate Porter Jr's back injury, get ready Bulls fans, it's going to be a fun ride.