CHICAGO — Michael Porter Jr. still believes he is the best player in the NBA draft, despite the fact he missed almost all of his lone season at Missouri after having back surgery. When asked during Thursday’s session with the media if he could have been the No. 1 pick had it not been for his injury, Porter left no doubt about where his mindset is as he heads into workouts prior to next month’s NBA draft.
“I know without a doubt that I’m the — I played against all these guys, they’re all great players — but I’m the best player in this draft,” Porter said. “And I just can’t wait to show what I’m capable of.”
Porter, who was a top-rated prospect coming out of high school, says he initially suffered his back injury several years ago and is confident he is now “100 percent” healthy after months of rehab.
“I hurt my back sophomore year of high school, going up for a dunk the guy kind of undercut me, fell on my back,” Porter said. “I tried to play the next day. I should have just rested. All that compensation [for the injury] in the gym just [made it] worse and worse. When I had to have the surgery, I kind of just viewed it as a blessing, like a new start, like I could really reach my full potential. [Experts] had me as the No. 1 player in high school, but I didn’t even feel like I was at 100 percent, but I do now, so I’m just excited to show everybody the player that I am, and I’m still the best player.”
As far as his back is concerned, Porter Jr. said he would have no problem allowing teams to see all his medical records.
‘[Doctors] said the [injury] site has healed fully,” he said. “I just got to keep up with my stretching, my core exercises. They think I should be fine.”
Porter says he has already had meetings with the New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets and LA Clippers. He is scheduled to meet with the Sacramento Kings, Charlotte Hornets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Boston Celtics on Friday, with other meetings potentially occurring in the next few weeks.
Porter clearly wants to ease any concerns that teams may have regarding his future. He sounded outwardly confident that he could still become the player that the basketball world believed he could be prior to the surgery.
“I played against all these guys,” Porter Jr. said. “I know they’ve obviously gotten better. They’re all great players. I’m not taking anything away from them. That’s just how I feel. I feel like everybody will know that soon.”
Porter admitted that he has “a little chip on my shoulder,” given that he wasn’t able to prove himself during his only NCAA season, but he is confident he can turn any doubts around in short order once he starts working out for teams.
“I was hoping to turn college basketball upside down just like a lot of these players,” Porter Jr. said. “Trae [Young], DeAndre [Ayton], Marvin [Bagley III], but this is just a step in my process to become the best player I can be. It’s a little different, but I’m more ready than ever. I’ve been dreaming about this NBA stuff for so long I feel like I’m ready.”