DENVER (AP) — Michael Porter Jr. played only three college games but said he is ready for the grind of an NBA season.
His back may not let him make good on that promise, but the Denver Nuggets’ newest young player said he’s ready to go after being selected 14th overall in the NBA draft Thursday night.
“I have no reason to not believe that,” he said. “I feel good.”
Porter was limited to 53 total minutes as a freshman for the Missouri Tigers due to the back injury, which required surgery. He averaged 10 points and 17.7 minutes in the 2017-18 season.
He said his back won’t be a problem, nor the hip that had him cancel most of his workouts for NBA teams and contributed to him falling to the last lottery spot in the draft.
“After pro day teams at the top of the draft telling me I was their guy, then I had that episode last week,” Porter said. “Hip hurt and I think that kind of scared some teams.I was feeling really good, had a good pro day. I was jumping really good again and everything was coming back together. I just had a sore few days but I’m on the right track and I’m getting better every single day.”
Denver decided Porter’s talent was worth the risk.
“We were very surprised, and happily so, that Michael continued to fall down the board,” Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said. “At some point it becomes a risk-reward ratio. We think he’s an elite talent, a guy with no back issues we wouldn’t have the good fortune of drafting. You have to take a swing at guys like that. You have to get lucky.”
Connelly said the team’s executives and medical staff pored over Porter’s medical records and felt comfortable taking a chance on him.
“We’ve looked at so many medicals,” Connelly said. “We felt well-informed every step of the way. We feel it’s a well thought-out and well-designed risk that we’re unbelievably happy is going to be in a Nuggets uniform.”
Porter joins a young team with a strong nucleus that has missed the playoffs for five straight seasons. Denver’s offense starts with playmaking center Nikola Jokic, who has 16 career triple-doubles, 10 of which came last season for the 46-36 Nuggets.
Denver finished a game out of the postseason each of the last two seasons.
In addition to the 23-year-old Jokic, Denver’s young core consists of point guard Jamal Murray, 21, and shooting guard Gary Harris, 23, which gives the franchise a foundation to build upon.
That foundation now includes the 6-foot-10 Porter, who turns 20 on June 29. He could immediately fill a need at small forward if veteran Wilson Chandler opts out of his contract and Will Barton, an unrestricted free agent, doesn’t re-sign with Denver.
“I know they’ve got a good young point guard in Jamal Murray, Gary Harris at (shooting guard) can score the ball. Jokic, great passer, and Paul Millsap,” Porter said. “It’s a good, good young team who is very unselfish and that’s what I like about it. That’s how I like to play. When I watch them that’s the feeling I get from them.”
The Nuggets traded a future second-round pick to move up two spots in the second round to take Jarred Vanderbilt out of Kentucky at No. 41. They also drafted center Thomas Welsh of UCLA with the 58th pick.