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NBA AM: Who Wants To Move A Pick?

With the 2014 NBA Draft order set, which teams in the top nine are angling to trade their pick?… Up Close With Elfrid Payton.

Steve Kyler



Who Is Moving A Pick?:  Tuesday’s 2014 NBA Draft Lottery did not go as scripted with the Cleveland Cavalier hopping up from the projected ninth pick to the top overall pick. With Cleveland’s good fortune came some tough realities for other teams hoping for some lottery luck of their own; the biggest being that they may not be able to pick the player they ultimately covet.

Virtually every team that gets a top tier pick explores what that pick might be worth in trade simply as part of a due diligence process and in this draft class more than most, moving down a few spots could gain a team an equally promising prospect and possible additional assets. The odds that any of the teams at the top actually trade their pick is small, but here is what we know about the results and where the teams holding the top nine picks seem to stand:

#1 – Cleveland Cavaliers:
The Cavaliers are open for business. They are open to trading the top overall pick, but they want a bona fide All-star in return. Minnesota big man Kevin Love has been linked to the Cavs and he is absolutely a player the Cavs would move the top pick to obtain. The Cavs would require Love to opt-in to the final contract year of his deal as part of a transaction. It’s unclear if Minnesota or Love are open to that kind of deal.

The Cavs were not expecting a pick this high in the draft and have started to work through the process including scheduling visits and workouts with the top five or six guys. Early reports peg the Cavs as having eyes for former Kansas stars Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins.

There is a ton of uncertainty surrounding Embiid and his back and the Cavaliers are eager to understand what’s real and what is gamesmanship by his agent. Should Embiid pass Cleveland’s  medical evaluation there is a real strong chance he could be the top overall pick. If there are doubts or conflicting opinions about Embiid’s back, the Cavs would turn to Wiggins.

Duke star Jabari Parker is not out of the mix in Cleveland, but according to sources is a little lower on the board than Wiggins and Embiid. A strong workout could swing things in his favor, but it’s believed that if Cleveland keeps the pick it’s down to Embiid and Wiggins at this stage of the process.

Data: Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects

#2 – Milwaukee Bucks :
Like most teams at the top, Milwaukee will gauge what their pick is worth, but sitting at number two isn’t a bad situation for Milwaukee. They had been planning for a top tier pick and with the second pick they still could end up with the player that was near the top of their board.

The Bucks have had eyes for Embiid for most of the season, but it seems pretty clear that his agents are trying to steer him away from Milwaukee. That’s not going to stop the Bucks from doing their due diligence on him in the event that Cleveland passes.

Word from the Draft Combine was that Jabari Parker and Dante Exum were the top two candidates for the Bucks and both may be there when the Bucks select at number two. There is a sense that new ownership in Milwaukee is going to have a lot of say in where this pick gets used and as much as the current management may want to go with Exum and set them up going forward, there may be a desire from ownership to pick a named guy that the fans can connect with.

Whether its Parker or Exum, the Bucks will come away with a solid player, which is what they were hoping for.

#3 – Philadelphia 76ers:
Coming into the process the Sixers had eyes on Wiggins and Exum and there is a chance that both players are gone when they pick at number three. Sources close to the process say the 76ers are lukewarm on Embiid, but that does not mean they wouldn’t look at him hard or entertain a trade where they draft Embiid and trade him to move down to gain additional assets.

If Embiid is off the board when Philly picks it likely means one of the guys they like is there. There is a sense that Philly likes Exum a great deal and would have no issues pairing him with last year’s Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams. Should Wiggins fall to the third spot, Philly likely grabs him. If Parker falls to three that might give Philly a little pause, but it’s believed they would take him as well.

There are a couple of dark horses in the 76ers scenario and that includes Indiana big man Noah Vonleh and Arizona star Aaron Gordon, both are said to be intriguing to Philly, but it would seem more likely that going with one of those guys would be part of a trade down scenario.

The 76ers seem like they are going to stay at number three and it seems like they will be ready to catch whichever of the top four prospects fall their way.

It is unlikely that Philly lets a great prospect get past them, even if it is simply to trade him later in the draft.

The 76ers endured a tough season of losing to get to this point and with two lottery level picks in their pockets the franchise seems poised to come out of the draft in really good shape going forward.

If Philly has proven anything in the Sam Hinkie era, it’s that they will be aggressive and creative, so don’t be surprised to see the 76ers jockey the third pick into a lot more if the players they covet are off the board.

Story: 2014 Consensus Mock Draft Ver. 2.0

#4 – Orlando Magic:
The Magic are also very much open for business. They hold two lottery level draft picks, have a roster full of promising young talent and they have the creatively structured contract of Jameer Nelson ($8 million salary, $2 million guaranteed) and shooting guard Aaron Afflalo to dangle in would-be trades. The Magic may also have an ample amount of cap space in July to absorb a big contract if required.

The Magic have been linked to Golden State’s David Lee, although sources in Orlando down played that report as one of many things being presented their way. Take that to mean, it’s something they could do if they wanted to.

The Magic did not jump up in the draft, in fact they fell back a spot, but that fundamentally hasn’t changed what the Magic had planned for this draft which was to look at maybe 30 players in the draft pool. Five or six related to their top pick and at least 20 related to their 12th pick.

There is a sense the Magic would like to see Exum fall to them and that still remains a possibility, but at four they may have to settle for who else is there.

The Magic have been high on Wiggins and Parker all season, so if one of them is there at four the Magic likely grab them. The question becomes what about Embiid? If Embiid is there at four it likely means there are serious questions lingering about his back and would the Magic take the risk on Embiid given his potential?

The Magic have the luxury of a loaded roster and a promising big in Nikola Vucevic, so in theory they could draft Embiid, let him work through the medical parts of his rehab and develop him slowly. It all comes down to how bad is the injury?

Reports from Kansas during the Final Four pegged Embiid’s injury as a stress fracture which is called Spondylolysis, which is a small crack in the pars interarticularis portion of the lumbar spine. This injury usually heals normally with rest and rehab. The unknown in this equation is if the condition is really Spondylolisthesis, which is a recurring stress reaction, related to vertebra shifting forward and sitting on nerves. The surgical treatment for that is surgical fusion, which is a scary concept for NBA teams. It is believed this is the second time Embiid has had this injury, which is why there is so much debate and concern.

There is a sense that Embiid’s agent is playing this coy to steer him to the right team, however with such a huge unknown looming around his draft stock it’s hard to peg what’s real and what’s not.

Orlando could have the option of being the Embiid broker with the fourth pick, however if he is there it means three other teams passed on his back, because his potential as a player is off the charts.

There are a couple of dark horse candidates for the Magic with the fourth pick. If Wiggins, Parker and Exum are off the board the Magic may look at Marcus Smart and Noah Vonleh. Smart was a player the Magic thoroughly scouted last year; they are very familiar with his game and were high on a season ago. Vonleh may be more of a reach for the Magic who have similar size and position players on the roster already, but are said to be high on his character and his potential in the NBA.

The smart money says the Magic catch whoever falls to four. The Magic do have some assets to dangle to move up including the number 12 pick; however, sources close to the process don’t see that happening at this point.

The Magic expect to be busy with individual workouts all the way up to the draft and have been trying to schedule as many guys as they can, so they will be involved in a lot leading up to the draft.

#5 – Utah Jazz:
The Jazz are in a tough spot, mainly because at five, they won’t get any of the studs of the draft and will be left with picks from the next tier. There is a sense that the Jazz would like to move up or move back, which means the number five could be had.

The players that are projected possible at number five play positions the Jazz are either stocked at or have invested in. Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon would both need time at the four spot. Adding depth and versatility behind Derrick Favors might make sense, but do you use the fifth pick on guys that need minutes you don’t have to give? The Jazz drafted Trey Burke last year so do they add Marcus Smart and try and play him off the ball? Where does that put Alec Burks?

The Jazz have a need at center, is Vonleh truly a center at the next level? Do they slide Favors to center and pair him with Vonleh, Randle or Gordon?

The Jazz, like most teams outside the top four, have to wait and see what falls to them. If Embiid starts to tumble do the Jazz grab him at five and roll the dice?

There is a sense the Jazz are open for business in either direction, up or down, but they will due their due diligence on a ton of players.

The smart money says the Jazz slide back in this draft, especially if the players that really solve problems for them are gone.

There is also a scenario where the Jazz trade out of the draft completely, flipping the fifth pick for a proven veteran. That is believed to be very much on the table in Utah.

#6 – Boston Celtics:
The Celtics again found no luck with the ping-pong balls of the lottery, and like Utah now find themselves in wait-and-see mode.

The good news for the Celtics is there are a number of players that make a lot of sense for their roster: Vonleh, Gordon, Randle, Doug McDermott and Dario Saric.

The Celtics have been angling for Kevin Love in a trade with the Timberwolves and while the sixth pick isn’t nearly as a sexy at a top three pick, they are very much open to trading their pick and some roster players to get a proven player like Love.

The Celtics are absolutely in consolation prize mode in this draft at number six. If they stay there they will end up with a solid NBA prospect, but this draft isn’t shaping up how Boston hoped when the season ended.

The Celtics are absolutely one of the teams to watch if Embiid takes a tumble, mainly because they have some experience drafting injured players and seem to be OK with the risk-reward scenario associated, especially with the sixth pick.

The dark horse pick for Boston could be Bosnian big man Jusuf Nurkic. He measures in at 6’11.5 in shoes, with a monster 7’2’ wingspan and averaged 11 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in the Adriatic league this season. Nurkic is considered the second best NBA center prospect in the draft. If Utah doesn’t grab him with the fifth pick, Boston might be where he lands with the sixth.

Story: Potential Trade Destinations for Kevin Love

#7 – LA Lakers:
There were a couple of players that seemed perfect for the Lakers – Embiid being the first, Exum being the second and barring something silly occurring both should be long gone when the Lakers draft with the seventh pick.

Like the Celtics, the Lakers are actively exploring the trade market looking to flip their pick into a veteran player, the problem is the seventh pick isn’t sexy at all in trade talks.

The smart money says the Lakers stay right where they are and draft the best player at seven. That looks to be one of Smart, Vonleh or Randle with the possibility of McDermott and Saric on the outside of the bubble.

Smart makes the most sense going forward because he can play right away. Vonleh may have some serious upside and could be a nice anchor piece for the Lakers future but will need some time to develop, where Randle could be the best all-around player of the bunch.

The Lakers are open to moving up or down in the draft, however with just four players on the roster (Robert Sacre, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Kendall Marshall) they do not have a lot to offer as a sweetner in a deal.

#8 – Sacramento Kings:
The Kings are absolutely open for business, but the problem for Sacramento is who really knows what they are selling? The eight pick really does not have a lot of appeal yet, its value becomes more apparent after picks start coming off the board.

The Kings are one of those teams that could move down or out of the draft for the right veteran players as they view themselves in win-now mode, or at least want to be in win-now mode.

Given what the eighth pick looks to be, they could be towards the bottom of the list in terms of teams trying to move a pick.

There are some interesting prospects that look to be available at number eight, including Gordon, possibly Randal or Vonleh and Saric would be in interesting fit in Sacramento especially if Rudy Gay opts out of his contract.

Eight is also where McDermott, Nik Stauskas and James Young become possibilities. The latter two would be a bit of a reach at eight but both would fit in nicely with the Kings.

As the 2014 NBA Draft starts to take shape the value of the Kings pick might increase. The smart money say they will be drafting with the eight pick, but if they could find a deal that gets them a proven player they seem more than open to it.

#9 – Charlotte Hornets:
The Cavaliers were not the only team to get some lottery luck, by virtue of the Cavs moving up, everyone else moved down and that moved the ninth pick back into Charlotte’s pocket, where it was expected to be Detroit’s pick.

The Hornets find themselves with a lot of options that make sense for them. McDermott fits how the Hornets want to play as does Young and Stauskas. Gordon could still be on the board at nine and that would be a huge get for the Hornets. Saric could also be here for the Hornets and he could be a ready-to-play right away guy in a very Hedo Turkoglu kind of way.

The Hornets are one of the teams open to moving up, so if Utah wants to move to nine there may be a deal to be made here.

The Hornets are playing with house money on this pick as they were not planning for it.

Now that they have it, they are being active in exploring what it can return either in terms of a draft prospect or a veteran player or some combination.

The Hornets have had affections for Orlando’s Arron Afflalo for some time. It’s doubtful that the ninth pick gets Orlando off the dime on Afflalo, but some combination of assets that includes the ninth pick might get consideration.

The Hornets would rather come out of this draft with a proven player, that’s where McDermott becomes interesting for Charlotte if they cannot find a trade they can consummate.

Most pick related trades happen on draft day, mainly because teams tend to go down to the wire on what they ultimately want to do in the draft. There have been a few cases where picks have been traded before the draft, although the majority of deals involving picks happen on draft night or later.

Deals that move off salary usually get consummated on draft day, however don’t become official until July when the new salary cap year begins and teams with ending contracts convert those deals into cap space.

Those kinds of deals that involve draft picks usually result in a team drafting a player specifically for another team and trading his draft rights to the acquiring team at some point in early July.

Up Close With Elfrid Payton :  Louisiana-Lafayette guard Elfrid Payton could be one of the top four point guards drafted in the 2014 NBA Draft. He talks about preparing for workouts, what he hopes to show NBA teams and where he thinks he fits.

Six Things You Need To Read:  Every so often we try and point the spotlight on things you may have missed, here are six things you really should read:

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NBA Daily: LiAngelo Ball Fighting For Place in the NBA

LiAngelo Ball has the name recognition but is trying to prove he belongs in the NBA based on his skills and abilities.

James Blancarte



NBA fans are currently being treated to competitive Western and Eastern Conference Finals. The postseason is coming to a close and in roughly two weeks, the eventual 2018 NBA champion shall be crowned. With the NBA season nearly over, NBA draft season is revving up. On June 21, exactly sixty young men will hear their name called on draft night. This group will include highly sought-after NCAA collegiate prospects, international players and U.S. born players that have spent time improving their respectives games overseas.

Attention is most often focused on the top few picks. However, one name has had a conspicuous tendency to stick out, LiAngelo Ball. Like his older brother Lonzo Ball, Liangelo was recruited into the UCLA program amid the heightened attention surrounding the Ball family. Unlike Lonzo, Liangelo was unable to showcase his game on the U.S. collegiate level following a widely covered theft scandal overseas, his subsequent suspension from the UCLA program and the Ball family’s decision to then place LiAngelo and his younger brother LaMelo Ball into the Lithuanian league.

Now removed from overseas play, LiAngelo Ball is fighting to prove that his game (and not just his name) warrants the attention of NBA team officials. Many critics are quick to look past Lonzo’s clear NBA talent and whatever potential LaMelo Ball might have to quickly dismiss LiAngelo. LiAngelo Ball made it clear he sees himself as an NBA player. Ball spoke to Basketball Insiders recently to discuss a wide range of topics.

“I’m an NBA player, that’s why I declared for the draft. That’s why I’m here also,” Ball stated.

While those who question the potential for Ball to make the league via the draft, Ball has been busy doing his best to make a good impression in person. Ball spoke about the interviews he’s had so far.

“Team interviews were great. It wasn’t really an interview for me. I just started talking, vibing with the coach really. I felt like it went good for me,” Ball said and confirmed which teams he had spoken to. “I had two with [Oklahoma City] and the Suns.”

Alex Kennedy of Hoopshype confirmed that Ball also has private workouts scheduled with the Lakers, Clippers and Warriors.

Ball gave some insight into his approach to the workouts and whether there is a specific approach regarding the teams in attendance.

“I’m going to work out hard. I’m not really familiar with what they do so, I don’t know but I’m going to knock down my shots and show my endurance. Stuff like that,” Ball said.

Numerous videos have been posted of Ball shooting well in these workouts. The videos, as his past play would indicate, show that Ball is at least a capable outside shooter. Ball was quick to point this out, along with his defensive potential, as skill sets that make him a viable NBA prospect.

“I feel like I bring the team, I can knock down shots for a team. I’m real confident in that,” Ball said. “I feel like my defensive game is good. With the right coach and somebody lets me know the techniques, I feel like I’ll be a good defender in the league.”

Young players and prospects are often asked which players they have looked up to or emulated as it helps to give a bit of insight into the young player’s mentality. Ball didn’t admit to copying a particular player’s game but did name a few players he likes to watch while slipping in a flattering comparison he says he has heard about himself.

“I don’t really model my game after other players. I always just play my own way, my own style. I like to watch players as far as James Harden, LeBron [James], Klay Thompson. People say I play like [Thompson] sometimes. So, I just like watching that type of stuff. Pick up stuff from the game,” Ball said.

Ball also highlighted his time in Europe as a plus to his resume.

“I feel like it translates good into the NBA. I mean, I got a year of experience over in Europe, Europe basketball. [Because] they do a lot of the same sets, like I said, as far as coming off the screens, pull-ups and all that. I feel like it helped me out there,” Ball stated.

Also, Ball didn’t hesitate to show his interest in playing for any team beyond the Lakers, if that opportunity presented itself.

“I’m saying I’d like to play for the Lakers [because] my brother is on the team. I want to play with him. I’d love to play for any other team really. I don’t have like a set choice.  Any other team, I’m ready to play for,” Ball stated

Ball needs to keep all options open. There are only so many spots in the draft and as Ball stated, he will have to be prepared to explore every opportunity in the draft, free agency or perhaps through the G-League. For now, he is focusing his attention on the task at hand and doing whatever he can to ensure his name is among the sixty called on draft night.

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Mock Drafts

2018 NBA Consensus Mock Draft – Ver 4.0

Each week, four of Basketball Insiders’ experts take a look at the draft class and weigh in on what they are seeing and hearing in the march up to the 2018 NBA Draft.

Basketball Insiders




Each week, four of Basketball Insiders’ top writers will break down the latest news and notes surrounding the 2018 NBA Draft. Included is an updated mock draft that reflects how each writer sees the draft landscape based on the latest news, workouts, and information from the pre-draft process.

Version: 1.0 | 2.0 | 3.0

Moke’s Notebook: One thing I can say for sure is that this is the most unpredictable draft I’ve seen in many years. The Kings and Hawks are each rumored to be open to moving the second and third pick in the draft, and I have a feeling that’s due to the intrigue surrounding Luka Dončić. At this point, the expectation is that the Suns will select DeAndre Ayton first, and I get the sense that there are many that believe that the risk of selecting Dončić is too great. Aside from that, Michael Porter, Jr. (whom I’ve been told is the “dream” scenario for the Knicks) and Mo Bamba each saw their stock rise pretty dramatically during the Combine in Chicago. I’ve seen some mocks having Porter as highly as third.

Aside from those two, there are a lot of questions about Trae Young. It was once thought that Stephen Curry and even Kevin Durant weren’t strong enough to make it in the NBA, and similar questions have been asked of Young. Between Dončić, Bamba, Porter and Young, we might be looking at four of the biggest risks that are consensus top seven picks in quite some time. Of the batch, I’d feel most comfortable selecting Bamba, whose maturity and outside shooting are both better than advertised, but again, with teams at the top willing to discuss dealing their picks and the appetite for risk playing a major role in how the draft shakes out, I only have confidence in my top seven, not necessarily where they’ll land.

As we get closer to the draft, I’d keep an eye on a few names: Aaron Holiday, Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo. Each of those guys have a shot to move up into the late teens, with Holiday, in particular, having lottery potential. Keita Bates-Diop and Jevon Carter are two second rounders who I wouldn’t be surprised to see sneak into the top 30, either.

Over the coming weeks, some guys will be called in for more individual workouts and as the weeks progress, our intel will get stronger.

Jesse’s Notebook: Though the NBA Lottery and Combine are behind us, there are still a lot of questions about how things will shake out on draft night. While Luka Dončić has been considered a consensus top-two pick for some time, some are now questioning whether he will drop a spot or two. I still believe that by draft night, Dončić will likely be picked either first or second, but that doesn’t seem to be a foregone conclusion anymore.

The mystery man of this year’s class continues to be Michael Porter Jr. Porter Jr. checks off all of the boxes for a top-tier draft prospect, but his injury history and long-term health are still major issues that teams need to consider. No one in the draft has a larger range of outcomes. Porter Jr. recently said at the Combine that he is the best player in the draft and it will only take one team with a top pick to agree with his assessment to roll the dice and take a shot on him. But if it looks like his athleticism or burst is limited because of his previous injuries, he could drop toward the end of the top-10.

As of now, there is a good sense of who will be picked with the top 15 picks or so. Once we get outside of that range, things become somewhat less clear. There is very little consensus on how teams will draft from 16-30, so I expect the upcoming workouts and other pre-draft processes to help add clarity on that front.

Benny’s Notebook: Since Basketball Insiders’ last set of Notebooks, much of the draft landscape has changed. From lottery leaps to combine crushers, we’re finally at the point in the process where things start to happen. I still believe Luka Dončić is this draft class’ best player — he literally won both the EuroLeague MVP and Final Four MVP this weekend — but we must deal with the reality that Phoenix (and perhaps others) may look elsewhere. Outside of swapping No. 1 and 2, most of my adjustments come in the lower half of the first round.

I’d banked high on Mitchell Robinson showing out at the Draft Combine and, instead, he pulled out of everything completely. Allegedly, this is because Robinson has earned a promise from the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 25, according to Aran Smith of So, with little else to go off of on Robinson, he slides for me. Additionally, after the strange week of Dennis Schröder news, it’s possible that the Atlanta Hawks could search for a future guard — and the stock-rising Aaron Holiday certainly fits the bill.

Lastly, I’ve begun to come around on Zhaire Smith, the 6-foot-5 prospect from Texas Tech that averaged 11.3 points and five rebounds per game. In the modern, positionless NBA, Smith can already guard multiple spots and his athletic abilities have been rated at the top of his class. He may need some G-League time next season, but he turns just 19 years old in early June. While he probably won’t rise much higher than I’ve had him in mocks thus far, he makes sense for plenty of rebuilding rosters.

Steve’s Notebook: With the official NBA Draft Combine in the books there has been a lot of draft chatter. While it’s important to state clearly that its still very very early in the process and lots of things can change, there is a sense at least in a few places where some teams seem to be heading and where some players might end up landing.

The Phoenix Suns did land the top overall pick, and there was almost no executive in Chicago who thought Arizona big man DeAndre Ayton wouldn’t be Phoenix’s pick. While there is real validity to the idea that new Suns head coach Igor Kokoškov has experience and a relationship with euro sensation Luka Dončić, the belief is the Suns will make their decision based on talent, not relationship.

There was also a buzz that both Sacramento and Atlanta seemed more interested in the domestic big men available at the top of the draft rather than Dončić. That could always change, but the thought process there was the risk that Dončić could opt to stay out of the draft if he didn’t like where he would land, and both teams seem to be higher on other players.

There were a few players who clearly had fans among NBA talent evaluators.

Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr, could go significantly higher than expected with Dallas being his likely ceiling. The Mavericks are far from locked in on anyone, but the belief is the Mavericks are looking at versatile bigs.

Kentucky’s Kevin Knox was something of a mystery in Chicago opting to do very little publicly and left town early. According to several teams, Knox could go as high as six to Orlando and has strong interest from the Bulls, Cavaliers, and Knicks.

UCLA’s Aaron Holiday is said to have a “soft” commitment in the late teens and has, at this point, turned away workouts with teams in the 20’s. There is a sense he could be gone before by the 19th pick.

Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison pulled out of the Combine with NBA’s Aran Smith tweeting that he is believed to have gotten a commitment from the Chicago Bulls at 22. Smith also tweeted that Mitchell Robinson also got a promise from the Lakers at 25. One veteran executive labeled this draft class as being the most aggressive draft he can recall where agents were calling and pressing for commitments.

Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo wowed athletically during combine testing and several executives before the testing sessions not only nailed where he’d measure and perform, they also suggested he’d be gone in the 20’s.

Executives were especially critical of the two notable international prospects Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs, suggesting that both could slide into the second round.

IMG Academy’s Anfernee Simons has several fans, but the word on him is that he’s a long-term project that would need time. There was a considerable amount of fact-finding by scouts on Simons. A team to watch could be Orlando if Simons is there is there when the Magic select at 35 or 41.

Tulane’s Melvin Frazier came away with mixed reviews, some love his length and athleticism and see him as a defensive presence, other teams saw him as lacking defined NBA skill sets.

Maryland’s Kevin Huerter has some fans. One executive offered a friendly wager that Huerter would be gone by 40.

West Virginia’s Jevon Carter looks like he has a real shot to be drafted in the first round, with several teams at the bottom of draft expressing real interest.

There are a couple of sleeper types that seemed to have turned some heads through the process in Chicago, namely Kansas’ Udoka Azubuike, Louisville’s Ray Spalding, Dayton’s Kostas Antetokounmpo and West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate. All of them could go significantly higher than currently projected.

Who are these guys anyway? Steve Kyler is the Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 19 years. Moke Hamilton is a Deputy Editor and Columnist for Basketball Insiders and has covered basketball for the last eight years. Jesse Blancarte is a Senior NBA Writer and Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last four years. Benny Nadeau is an NBA Writer and finished his first season covering the NBA for Basketball Insiders.

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NBA Daily: Porter Jr. Ready to Make Up For Lost Time in the NBA

Michael Porter Jr. played just 53 minutes of basketball in his lone college season, yet believes he’s the best player in the draft now that he’s seemingly healthy.

Dennis Chambers



When Michael Porter Jr. stepped foot on Missouri’s campus, he was supposed to inject life into a basketball program that hadn’t made the NCAA tournament since the 2012-13 season.

After receiving his release from the University of Washington, following the firing of Lorenzo Romar, Porter Jr. decided to return home and play under Cuonzo Martin for the Tigers. The No. 2 ranked recruit in the nation, the near 6-foot-11 small forward possessed the scoring and versatility traits to suggest he would be a star at the college basketball level before making his jump to the NBA.

But that would not be so for Porter Jr., as a back injury and subsequent surgery would limit him to just 53 total minutes in three games coming at the end of the season.

In his brief stint as a student-athlete, Porter Jr. played how many would expect a teenager coming off of months-long injury rehab: rusty.

Thirty points and 20 rebounds in three games, on 10-for-33 shooting from the field, and 7-for-20 from beyond the arc. It was clear Porter Jr. was not up to the speed he expected to be on the college court just several months prior. But no matter, he wanted to get out there anyway, regardless of risking re-injury, so that he could help his teammates.

“I knew that I wasn’t gonna put on a show, or be the Mike that they saw in a few months,” Porter Jr. said at the NBA Combine. “The way I was thinking about was just, you know, they’ll know the player I am in a few months. Just trying to help my team and not be selfish with the decision. We had like six players on scholarship at the time because two had gotten injured. So, I was just trying to do what I could to be a part of the team.”

Porter Jr.’s return didn’t lift his team the way he had hoped, as Missouri fell to Florida State in the first round of the NCAA tournament 67-54. When the clock hit zeros, the smooth shooting swingman with a questionable injury history set his sights on the NBA.

However, Porter Jr.’s projection at the game’s highest level is much different in May than it was 10 months ago. From positioning himself to battle for the top overall pick, Porter Jr. is now somewhat of an enigma. His game is a bit of a mystery, and so are his medical records. Once considered a no-brainer to be picked top-three, Porter Jr. could find himself sliding near the back end of the top 10 on draft night.

Noting that he originally injured his back a few years ago in high school, when the injury finally caught up to him just before his college career was ready to tip off, Porter Jr. took a unique approach to otherwise disappointing news.

“When I had to have the surgery I kind of viewed it as a blessing,” Porter Jr. said. “A new start, and I could really reach my full potential. They had me as the number one player in high school, but I didn’t even feel like I was at 100 percent, and I do now.”

Being at 100 percent, as Porter Jr. says in his own words, just before he begins his NBA career has the forward excited for his future. Despite missing time on the court and falling behind other prospects in the draft conversation, Porter Jr. hasn’t lost his self-confidence.

“I’m just excited to show everybody the player that I am,” Porter Jr. said. “I’m still the best player … I played against all these guys, they’re all great players. But I’m the best player in this draft.”

Though his back is still a mystery, and his sample size is small, if Porter Jr. were to reach the potential scouts and NBA personnel pegged him as having when he was on the doorsteps of college basketball, then he has the makings of a franchise-caliber player.

With the opportunity of getting that kind of upside at a potentially discounted selection, Porter Jr. was one of the most popular names at the Cmbine. The forward mentioned meeting with just about every team picking in the top 10 come June’s draft. One team that Porter Jr. has been frequently linked to, the Chicago Bulls, were not exclusively mentioned on his list. But Porter Jr. noted the Bulls and his agent were in contact and he hoped to get a workout scheduled with Chicago.

No matter who Porter Jr. meets with or works out for from now until draft night, the versatile and skilled forward projects to be one of the most interesting players to follow. Could he impress throughout the draft process and reclaim his spot within the top-three? Or will he slide down draft boards and become a potential steal for a team in the back half of the lottery?

Whatever the outcome is, Porter Jr. will be ready.

“I was hoping to turn college basketball upside down like a lot of these players,” Porter Jr. said. “But this is just a step in my process in becoming the best player that 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.”

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