If a team is looking for the potential next great NBA scorer, Michael Porter Jr. looks to be the best in the class. The unanimous number one domestic prospect prior to Marvin Bagley’s reclassification (and still number one on some boards), Porter committed to Missouri after the University of Washington fired their former head coach Lorenzo Romar. How will the 6’10” forward from Nathan Hale’s game translate to the NBA?
While Porter isn’t the world’s greatest athlete, he is more than capable of finishing inside with force, attacking the rim hard and dunking over late help defenders. He uses that same steam to adapt his shot and finish with finesse and through contact. Aside from his around the rim dunks, the most obvious thing about Porter’s inside game is his outstanding footwork. For him, getting around guys without taking a dribble seems incredibly easy.
Porter also shows potential as a cutter and half court lob threat. The problem is he didn’t show it off very often in high school due to his high usage rate in the half court and his immense talent scoring in transition.
This is where Porter separates himself from the rest of the class. He can create his own shot at ease using nothing but his footwork. While he uses jab steps and pump fakes to set up his dribble, his excellent use of his pivot foot to set up off-balance spins shows a kind of advanced footwork on par with that of Jayson Tatum.
Just look what he does to Dennis Smith Jr. in the above clip. A quick dribble, a pump to get Smith off-balance, and a quick spin into the open area for an open shot. Not a lot of players have that kind of skill and scoring instinct.
When he attacks off the dribble, Porter has the ability to use a variety of moves and number of dribbles to set up his own jump shot. His go-to move is a quick one or two step hesitation pull-up, particularly going left.
It’s here where his height and high release point plays a major role, allowing him to rise up off the dribble and release over almost any player, one of the qualities that makes Kevin Durant the unstoppable scorer he is.
Porter does have a tendency to fade when his shot is contested, which is strange given his height and release point. If he just went straight up, he’d shoot a higher percentage or draw some more fouls.
The first thing that you should learn about any prospect’s shooting potential is his release. Porter’s is good, but it does need some correction. He has a high rise above the defense and releases above his hand. The follow through is out in front of his head and he holds it after he hits the ground. Where it needs improvement is the base.
His feet kick back as he releases, which could potentially slow his shot and hurt his range as he moves into NBA range and plays against better athletes. It doesn’t seem to be a problem yet, so we’ll see what happens when he moves into the college level.
Looking past his release, Porter shows great potential as an outside shooter. On catch-and-shoot shots, his form is compact and he makes defenses pay. He also shows no hesitation pulling in rhythm, whether that be in transition or in the half-court.
The same hesitation pull-up that he utilizes in the mid-range extends out to the college three-point line. If he can extend his range on that pull-up to the NBA three, he will be one of the NBA’s more deadly scorers.
Porter is at his best in the transition game, particularly after pulling down rebounds. His handle is tight enough for a player of his size, and because he’s such a gifted scorer, defenses key in on him. This opens up significant passing lanes for Porter, which he takes advantage of.
Outside of transition, Porter shows some playmaking weaknesses. He’s not a terrible passer, but he’s never going to be a primary ball-handler for an NBA team. His handle itself is very simple, which leaves him susceptible to quick, tight defense.
Porter is a terror as a grab and go threat as both the rebounder and handler. He has a large rebounding radius, and as a small forward, he’ll benefit from matchups with slightly smaller players. He could stand to add some weight to counter NBA size, and he struggles finding bodies to box out, but both issues are correctable.
Porter’s biggest weakness on the basketball court is his inside defense. While he does have ability as a weak-side shot blocker, his awareness off-ball is terrible. He’ll often get caught ball watching, drawing him off his man and leading to wide open shots for the opposing team. He also seems completely disinterested as a help defender, showing little to no effort on that end. The perfect epitome of both is the play below, reminiscent of a Jahlil Okafor play against the Heat that made its way around Twitter.
That kind of mindset will need to improve for Porter to become a truly special player. Offense only players aren’t enough for teams looking to win championships.
Porter is just passible as a perimeter defender. When he’s engaged, he shows active hands that dart at the ball and force steals. He also knows how to use his length to recover and contest shots that would be beyond reach for most other small forwards.
However, Porter struggles defending for long periods of time, particularly against smaller, faster players. His stance is stiff and upright and he doesn’t slide his feet very well, evident in this play against Dennis Smith.
He also gambles too much, leading to open cuts to the rim after a pass. While many good high school scorers lack skills on the defensive end, the great ones develop the skills to be at least average on that end of the floor. For Porter, it will come down to effort and awareness. We’ll see if that improves when he heads to Missouri.
Porter has some of the best scoring instincts in this draft, and his footwork is truly something special. On defense, he pretty much needs to lock himself in a film room so he can read an offense and figure out defensive schemes. He also gives up on plays after he makes mistakes, some that even lead to baskets for opposing teams. That’s not going to fly in the NBA, and he will need to keep his emotions in check at that next level.
Like I said about Marvin Bagley, the biggest thing Porter can improve on is his mental approach to defense. However, if he can fix his shot base and become more confident in his handle, Porter could become one of the best scorers in the league from the moment he steps on the court.
(Clips from Ballislife, FrankieVision, HomeTeam and MakePlayz)