Michael Porter Jr.

Why the Bulls should take Jontay Porter with the No. 38 pick

Why the Bulls should take Jontay Porter with the No. 38 pick

For Bulls fans, the idea of drafting another player with serious knee injury concerns is no doubt  a very worrying thought. But when it comes to former University of Missouri big man Jontay Porter, Bulls fans should be fairly optimistic if they franchise is able to grab the uber-talented youngster with their No. 38 overall pick.

Strengths:

Porter, despite being only 19 years old, has the game of a 10-year NBA veteran. The first thing that you notice when you look at Porter’s numbers from his brief college stint is his awesome playmaking stats. He put up 5.4 assists per 100 possessions (19.6 percent assist rate), and was comfortable finding the open man whether he initiated the offense from the top of the key or the post.

For any team that needs to add more passing--cough, cough, looks at the Bulls ranking in 25th in assist percentage--Porter’s desire to find the open man is the start of his NBA appeal.

Despite being a player who looks to create for his teammates first, Porter is a very capable scorer. He is by no means a “jump-out-the-gym” athlete, instead relying on his guile and feathery soft touch on jump shots to put the ball in the basket. Per Hoop-Math.com, he shot 45.5 percent on 2-point jump shots and with only 16.8 percent of his shots coming at the rim. This is important because it shows that Porter has nice touch on his floaters and short-midrange shots, which will take on massive importance against dominant shot blockers in the NBA.

Porter's use of shot-fakes and subtle head movements make him a difficult cover for impatient defenders.

Porter’s offensive versatility is--like almost everything else in his game--completely tied to his sky-high basketball IQ. He is a solid shooter, hitting 36.4 percent of his 110 attempts from 3-point range. The 6-foot-11, 240 lb. Porter uses his wide frame to set great screens, which when combined with his shooting touch makes him quite the pick-and-pop threat on offense.

One of my favorite and most clear-cut comparisons for Jontay is Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. In the clip below, he shows yet again how his patience is his best attribute. After turning down the pick-and-pop 3-point shot, Porter drives into the paint to draw the help defender and then promptly finds the open man for a dunk.

Injuries obviously effect so much a young player’s game but Porter’s basketball IQ can’t be sapped by knee issues.

His intelligence on the court is obvious on both ends on the floor. Porter averaged 2.7 blocks and 1.4 steals per 40 minutes and was active rotating over on help defense. Despite the fact that he was prone to occasionally over-helping, Porter always kept his eyes on both ball and man. His attention to detail allows him to force turnovers--2.1 percent steal rate and 7.3 percent block rate--and instantly turn them into efficient transition opportunities.

Porter would’ve no doubt been a first round pick had he not gotten injured and could’ve been a lottery pick had he turned in another great year with significantly more playing time. The skills that made him such an enticing prospect are still there, they just need to be expanded upon as he works his way back into game shape.

Weaknesses:

No matter what site(s) or scouting reports you look at in regards to Porter, you will see a mention of his lack of elite athleticism. Porter was never the most explosive athlete to begin with and obviously multiple ACL tears don’t bode well for his chances of getting anywhere near becoming one.

I use per 40 minute stats quite a bit when discussing Porter because it amplifies his strengths and weaknesses, and that shows up quite a bit when it comes to his defensive struggles. Porter averaged a whopping 4.8 personal fouls per 40 minutes during his freshman season.

A big reason for these foul issues is that Porter often found himself stuck in between being a PF and C when it comes to matchups. The NBA’s positionless future makes that less of an issue for him, but he still will struggle to defend NBA-sized centers in the post.

Porter’s pick-and-roll defense is going to be way more important to his NBA longevity than his post defense, and that should give scouts some pause when it comes to discussing Porter’s draft stock. His ability to move laterally is the No. 1 thing that the NBA team that selects him should be concerned about. Porter had trouble bottling up quick guards coming off of screens, and much like his comparison Nikola Jokic, he will need to showcase the ability to play in hedge and drop back coverages on defnse.

If Porter can limit the amount of times he is beat (badly) off the dribble on straight-line drives, he will be able to corral guards and lead them into the help defense. But with such a long way to go before we know what Porter will look at 100 percent, it is tough to sell people on the idea that his defense won’t take several steps back before it takes a few steps forward.

Long term outlook:

Jontay Porter is too smart and too skilled of a basketball player to flame out of the NBA. That being said, the multiple ACL tears means that the margin of error for Porter whenever he hits the NBA--or  G League--floor is going to be very small.

To continue down the developmental path that it looked like he was headed down his freshman season, Porter simply needs to continue to keep his positive attitude and work on fine tuning his body in preparation for the speed of the pro game.

For a Bulls team that is woefully short on playmakers and has no discernible bench unit to speak of, Porter could be the ultimate diamond in the rough. A player of his talent level would have no chance of lasting to the No. 38 overall pick under normal circumstances, but the injury history will scare enough teams off that Porter could go anywhere from the first round to the very last pick of the draft, as NBA mock drafts have his stock all over the place. The Bulls may have an argument for playing it safe with the No. 7 pick, choosing to select a PG over the best player available to fill out what they fill is a solid starting unit/core group. But there is no such argument that could made about the second round of the NBA draft.

The second round is for NBA front offices with excellent scouting staffs to mine value out of unheralded or undervalued prospects, and if he is available, there will be no better second round value in the 2019 draft than Jontay Porter.

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Bulls Nation reacts to Wendell Carter Jr. pick

Bulls Nation reacts to Wendell Carter Jr. pick

Bulls Nation has always been a vocal group. So when the Bulls opted for Wendell Carter Jr. over the Twitter favorite, Michael Porter Jr., they made their voices (or tweets) heard. 

Here's some of the reaction:

Succinct, at least. 

Then there's always the guy with an (incorrect) comparison: 

Guess we don't have to watch him play? 

https://twitter.com/ChicagoBulls1st/status/1009958574829789184

There were at least a few calmer and more positive responses, however: 

https://twitter.com/blk_tray/status/1009952638790656001

But finally, "Crying Jordan." Because everything needs "Crying Jordan." 

 

Bulls' interest in Michael Porter Jr. promises to make draft night an eventful one—again

Bulls' interest in Michael Porter Jr. promises to make draft night an eventful one—again

Draft night has been accompanied by much speculation with the Bulls the last two seasons and Thursday is shaping up to fall right in line with recent history, as many believe the franchise has its eyes set on Missouri swingman Michael Porter, Jr.

According to several league sources the Bulls have inquired about moving up from the seventh spot in the draft to either the third or fourth spot, positions currently occupied by the Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies, respectively.

Team sources tell NBCSportsChicago.com there’s no truth to the speculation, nor would they entertain the notion of such efforts geared toward selecting Porter Jr., who only played three games this past season at Missouri, sandwiched between back surgery in mid-November.

Things haven’t quite settled with the teams above the Bulls, as most teams have been engaged in some form of trade talk as the draft is a little over 48 hours away. The Bulls were firmly engaged with teams the last two seasons as teams were interested in Jimmy Butler. The Bulls held back on trading him in 2016 before kickstarting their rebuild last June, sending him to Minnesota. 

Depending on who you believe, the Bulls are either engaging in similar conversation to move up for Porter--they were told weeks ago Porter wouldn't last to the seventh spot. But there appears to be a scenario where Porter Jr. could fall to them--a risky but not impossible proposition if Porter Jr. is truly their man. 

Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton appears to be a lock for the Phoenix Suns with the first pick, and Duke big man Marvin Bagley III looks headed for Sacramento, although Bagley isn’t a shoo-in. There’s a segment of the Sacramento front office that’s enamored with Porter Jr, sources tell NBCSportsChicago.com, and things could get tricky over the next couple days.

Dallas, selecting fifth, likes Porter Jr. as well but it seems unlikely it’ll pass on Real Madrid star Luka Doncic if he slips past Atlanta and Memphis. If that happens, there’s a path for the Bulls to stand pat and get a player with star potential without having to sacrifice an asset already on the roster or their second first-round pick, which they acquired in the Nikola Mirotic deal this past season.

Oklahoma point guard Trae Young has been in Chicago for a workout, along with the likes of big men Mohamed Bamba from Texas and Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr. Villanova’s Mikal Bridges also made a visit and each spoke to media following their workouts.

Porter Jr. has been in Chicago preparing for the draft for the last several weeks. His agent, Mark Bartlestein of Priority Sports, is based in Chicago and has a working relationship with the Bulls.

The Bulls medical staff was the lone NBA team to evaluate Porter Jr. before distributing the results to the other teams, ramping up speculation of a potential marriage between Porter Jr. and the Bulls.

Bulls executive-vice president John Paxson has said the team would look for the best player available as opposed to need, but Porter Jr.—if completely healthy—checks off multiple boxes for the franchise should the speculation have truth behind it.

The Bulls, with everything they obviously did with their lineups to finish the season to not-so-subtly position themselves to take a star, could be tempted to take Porter Jr. if he’s there, even with the question marks.

Before the college season began and his subsequent injury took him out of the conversation, Porter Jr. was mentioned as a top pick in a talent-laden draft. A swingman with a smooth stroke, it was believed he would dominate the college season before taking the next step.

The injury understandably splashed cold water on those prognostications and Porter Jr. has been careful in his rehab, even suffering a minor setback with hip spams right before a second “pro day” was to take place in Chicago last week.

“I saw him in the first workout,” a personnel man for a western conference team said. “He moved good but what he didn’t have was balance. He was dunking but didn’t explode off the floor. The second half, he shot the ball really well. Floaters, off the dribble, spot-ups, he was hitting everything. That’s when I saw what everybody was talking about. His athleticism has to come back and they say it will.”

The workout was important for Porter Jr. to establish fluidity of movement following his back injury as well as reminding those who had only seen him against prep competition or at the Adidas Nations showcase in Houston last August about his skill set.

“He’s a natural scorer,” a general manager in attendance for Porter Jr.’s showing in Houston and Chicago. “He’s not a super athlete, more long than anything. He knows how to score. He’s not KD (Kevin Durant), he’s more like (Boston Celtics forward) Jayson Tatum. Tatum got drafted into the right environment. It’s all about fit.”

Ideally, Porter Jr. could fit next to Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine as a primary scorer, giving the Bulls dynamic, versatile scorers at the toughest positions to gameplan for in the NBA.

Tatum was thrust into the spotlight for the Celtics due to Gordon Hayward’s season-ending injury on opening night, and had even more responsibility after Kyrie Irving’s late-season injury, performing admirably as the Celtics advanced to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Tatum is one of the finalists for the rookie of the year, which will be announced next Monday. Porter Jr. is three inches taller than Tatum, at 6-foot-11, but he’ll also have to adjust to the physicality of the league relative to his most recent consistent competition.

His back injury is still cause for pause for a few franchises, though, despite the clean bill of health.

“I don’t know if it would deter me from taking him but if anyone says it’s not a factor in your thinking is lying,” the general manager told NBCSportsChicago.com.

The personnel man agrees.

“It does (worry me), a bit,” he said. “But because he’s so big and so freaking talented, I’d consider taking him. If you can go in a situation where it isn’t career threatening, you gotta roll with him. You get a few months to get his strength back, you bring him along slowly to make sure everything’s in working order by the time the season starts.”

That’s a question the Bulls will have to answer if their affection for Porter Jr. is as real as it seems.

“At some point he becomes worth the risk, right? Chicago can’t pass him up, can they?”- the personnel man queried.

That’s the question Chicago has been trying to figure out for weeks now, and the answer will soon be revealed.