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Michael Porter Jr.’s talent is worth the gamble to raise the Wizards’ ceiling

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The Wizards would need to make a bold move to get in a position to draft Porter, but he may be one of their best chances to get to the next level.

SEC Basketball Tournament - Second Round Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Michael Porter Jr. entered the 2017-18 college basketball season as the second-best overall recruit in his high school class and the second-best overall prospect for the 2018 NBA Draft. Two minutes into his career at Missouri, that all changed.

He limped off the court against Iowa State in the Tigers’ season opener and Missouri later announced that Porter would undergo back surgery. We later learned that the surgery was to repair herniated discs. Even though the surgery was described as “minimally invasive” it kept him off the floor for nearly four full months. He recovered in time to play late in the season, but he looked slower and less explosive.

In 23 minutes of play in his first game back, he only scored 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting from the field as fifth-seed Missouri fell to 12th-seed Georgia in the second round of the SEC Tournament. His only NCAA Tournament game wasn’t much better. He scored 16 points on 4-of-12 shooting in a loss to the Florida State Seminoles. He didn’t look like the player we were expecting.

He has gone on record since the season ended saying his back is feeling “better than ever” but that hasn’t eased the concerns of some teams as his stock has fallen. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony currently has Porter ranked as the eighth-best prospect and his fellow ESPN analyst Jay Bilas has Porter Jr. at ninth.

Though Porter’s stock tumbled this season, it’s hard to see him dropping to the point to 15th, where the Wizards could take him with their first round pick. However, if he slips past the Bulls into that 8-12 range, the Wizards would be in a position where they could try to move up to get him by packaging their pick with either Kelly Oubre or a future first.

It wouldn’t be the first time the Wizards’ front office has tried something like this. In 2013, they packaged a pair of second round picks to move up and draft Glen Rice Jr. early in the second round. In 2015, they packaged their first round pick with two future second rounders to move up and select Oubre.

Normally, I’d be against trading two future first rounders for one player, but Porter Jr. is worth the cost for Washington. When you go back and watch him in high school and with Team USA, he was a man among boys. He averaged 36.2 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 5 assists per game during his senior year and was named the Gatorade Player of the Year. He also started all five games for the 2016 USA Men’s Under-18 National Team and led them to an undefeated record. He averaged a team-leading 15.8 points per game, along with 5.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game en route to the gold medal.

Even after the injury, he still has one of the best talents in the entire draft. At 6-10 with a 7-0 wingspan, Porter has the ideal size for a wing forward. At the moment he’s only 215 pounds, but his frame should allow him to put on more weight once he gets into an NBA training program.

Strengths

  • Excellent shooter.
  • Uses his height and length to his advantage.
  • Above-average rebounder for his position, loves to crash the boards.
  • Great off-ball movement.
  • High effort defender.
  • Underrated passer.
  • Elite catch and shoot player (Hello, John Wall).

Weaknesses

  • Durability is a concern after major back surgery.
  • Thin frame. Needs more muscle.
  • Needs to drive to the rim more. Tends to rely too much on shooting over people.
  • Tends to force the issue. Can be turnover prone.

How He Fits With The Wizards

If the Wizards landed Michael Porter Jr., he would immediately become a key cog either off the bench or even in the starting lineup. His size and willingness to play in the paint could allow him to fit in quite well in a lineup with Wall, Beal, and the other Porter. There wouldn’t be many teams in the NBA who could play four players who can shoot and attack off the dribble as well as that foursome. Just imagine Michael Porter Jr. taking Kelly Oubre’s place in Washington’s small lineups, running off of pin-downs, and being fed in rhythm by John Wall. It would be a sight to behold, and could help Washington raise their ceiling in a summer in which they desperately need to do something to get out of their rut.