The Sixers have become quite familiar with drafting players with injury issues.
There was Nerlens Noel’s knee and Joel Embiid’s foot, both of which the team had knowledge of beforehand. Then there was Ben Simmons’ foot and Markelle Fultz’s shoulder, both of which occurred after those players were selected.
With what the Sixers have dealt with, they’re uniquely qualified to deal with injured young players. So if Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. slips to 10, the team shouldn’t be able to get the pick to the podium fast enough.
News broke Thursday that Porter Jr., the No. 1 or 2 recruit coming into the 2017-18 college season, cancelled a pre-draft workout because of hip spasms. This is on the heels of the 6-foot-10 wing missing all but three games of his one-and-done season with the Tigers because of a back injury that caused him to undergo a microdiscectomy on his L3-L4 spinal discs.
However, Porter reversed course on Friday, as his agency informed teams that his workout was back on. Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania reported that Porter had a clean MRI of his hip on Thursday with “‘an even more positive review’ compared to a recent examination.” Teams will have the opportunity to evaluate him and assess his health in person at Friday’s workout.
Chances are teams won’t let Porter fall all the way to the Sixers, but if he does, the team needs to seriously consider drafting the 19-year-old. This is a player that was the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game. He’s long, athletic and armed with a silky smooth shooting stroke. If he’d been healthy and had even a decent year at Missouri, he likely wouldn’t get out of the top five.
There’s still a chance he won’t. Thursday, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony put out an extensive report on Porter Jr.’s cancelled workout and what it might do for his draft position. His stock was actually on the rise as teams began reviewing his medical records, and that was before Porter's decision Friday to hold the workout. Even with this news, a team like the Mavericks, who could gamble on a player like Porter Jr. at five, could be a good landing spot. As one NBA executive said in the story, “No one wants to miss out on another Joel Embiid."
And it all comes full circle. There may have been bumps along the road, but look how far the organization and the player have come in the Embiid situation. In missing his first two years, Embiid dealt with the stories about his love for Shirley Temples and media members speculating that he’d never play a game. Now he’s coming off an impressive second season and has flashed moments of sheer dominance.
Simmons missed an entire season, but thanks to Brett Brown and the team’s veterans, Simmons was kept in the loop with everything going on with the team and was able to step right in this year. Simmons showed off how great he may become in tandem with Embiid during a stellar rookie season.
The Fultz situation was flat out weird. We’ll never get a square answer to what exactly happened with Fultz’s shoulder and shot but we know this: Brown will stop at nothing to make Fultz maximize his potential. He just turned 20 – only about a month older than Porter Jr. – so the sky is still the limit.
So do the Sixers make a “safe” pick like Villanova’s Mikal Bridges or Michigan State’s Miles Bridges, or if Porter Jr. falls, do they make the bold pick? Both Bridges look like they’ll be fine players that should contribute immediately. But Porter Jr. has a chance to be a star. Do the Sixers need another star? Maybe not, but could having four young players on their way to NBA stardom be a bad thing?
The whole “Process” has been bold and gotten the team this far. If Porter Jr. slips, roll the dice again.