Michael Porter Jr. still believes he’s the best player in the draft despite what his critics might think.
“I want to show everybody that I’m still the best player,” Porter said Thursday at the NBA combine.
“I know without a doubt. I’ve played with all these guys, but I’m the best player in this draft. And I just can’t wait to show what I’m capable of.”
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Porter, who’s 6-10, was considered a potential No. 1 pick heading into his freshman season at Missouri. But his NBA stock and hopes of NCAA stardom came crumbling down after playing only two minutes in Missouri’s season opener.
In November, Missouri announced Porter would have “minimally invasive” back surgery. The procedure, called microdiscectomy, would sideline him for most of the season — only allowing him to play in a few of the Tigers’ last games.
While some would dwell on the setback, Porter, 19, believes it was a blessing in disguise, calling it a “fresh start so that I can reach my full potential.”
It turns out, Porter’s back began giving him problems the summer after his sophomore year of high school. It wasn’t until fall 2017 that he realized he couldn’t put off the surgery any longer.
“[The surgery] was a step back to take three steps forward,” Porter said. “I took a step back, but now I’m able to reach my full potential being out of pain.”
Porter repeatedly said he feels “100 percent.”
“I feel better than ever, actually,” he said.
But there’s still concern about whether Porter’s back problems will resurface in the future.
According to Porter, doctors said he has “healed fully” and doesn’t have any workout restrictions.
Porter, who said he had no problem sharing his medical records, shouldn’t have any long-term concerns as long as he continues to do his stretches and core exercise plan.
That’s good news for teams such as the Bulls, who’ve been linked to Porter for quite some time.
The bad news for the Bulls is that they weren’t one of the 13 teams Porter said he met with or is scheduled to meet with this week — although he hoped to change that in the near future and said his agent has been talking with the Bulls for weeks.
It’s still unclear whom the Bulls will have at the top of their draft board June 21. But vice president of basketball operations John Paxson all but screamed Porter’s name during his end-of-season news conference last month when addressing the team’s draft needs.
The Bulls are looking for a versatile wing player — two words Porter used to describe himself. Porter was viewed as a dynamic playmaker with scoring ability when he was in high school. He said he has “far surpassed” that talent level.
Porter, who has spent the majority of his offseason working out in Chicago, also thinks he’d be a great addition to the Bulls’ young nucleus of Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn.
“I feel like I’d fit in great with those guys,” he said. “They’ve got a great core, a lot of young guys, athletic guys. And they’re kind of looking for a small-four position, so I feel like I’d fit in great with those guys.”
Porter added that he would be more than willing to help a team rebuild.
“I want to help a team be a contender and win a lot of games,” he said. “Whatever it takes me to do, if it means helping a team rebuild, anything.”
But until then, Porter will continue to roam around Chicago, which he deemed a “dope city.”