Porter's health, availability figure to be a focus of Chicago Bulls' draft week

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • FILE - In this March 8, 2018, file photo, Missouri's Michael Porter Jr. pulls down a rebound during the second half in an NCAA college basketball game against Georgia at the Southeastern Conference tournament, in St. Louis. Michael Porter Jr. played in three games in college because of back problems, but his talent has long been considered more than NBA-ready. He is the epitome of high-risk, high-reward in this draft.

    FILE - In this March 8, 2018, file photo, Missouri's Michael Porter Jr. pulls down a rebound during the second half in an NCAA college basketball game against Georgia at the Southeastern Conference tournament, in St. Louis. Michael Porter Jr. played in three games in college because of back problems, but his talent has long been considered more than NBA-ready. He is the epitome of high-risk, high-reward in this draft.

 
 
Updated 6/19/2018 6:15 AM

There are a wide variety of scenarios for the Chicago Bulls at Thursday's NBA draft.

But many of them revolve around whether they -- and the teams picking ahead of them -- have a healthy opinion of Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Porter is a mystery in many ways. He played two minutes in his college debut last November, then had back surgery about a week later. He returned to play in two late-season games but was nowhere close to full strength.

When Porter met with reporters in Chicago at the NBA draft combine on May 17, he claimed to be 100 percent healthy and ready to work out for teams. Then last Friday, Porter canceled a planned workout in front of teams with the first 14 picks in the draft.

What now? There were reports of a hip injury, but Porter refuted that claim during a promotional appearance in New York on Monday.

"People were talking about how I couldn't get out of bed," Porter told USA Today. "No, I got out of bed, I went to the workout, but my hip was a little sore. I told (agent) Mark (Bartelstein) and he said shut it down for a couple of days, just being safe."

Porter swore he'd be willing to work out for individual teams this week before the draft, and the Bulls have almost certainly put in a request. Porter used Chicago as his home base to get ready for the draft.

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There has been talk this week that Sacramento, which has the second pick in the draft, is considering Porter, but there also seems to be a decent chance he could fall to the Bulls at No. 7. His health is a bit of a risk, since he's barely played basketball in the past year, but there could be a significant reward.

A year ago, Porter was the No. 1 player in his high school class and seemed to be the odds-on choice to selected with the top pick in this draft.

He won a state championship in Missouri as a junior, then won another in Washington after his dad moved from an assistant coach for the Missouri women's team to the coaching staff under Washington's Lorenzo Romar. Porter originally committed to Washington, then switched to Missouri when Romar was fired.

After leading Nathan Hale High School to an undefeated season, there was talk of Porter being the best of a generation of NBA stars from the Seattle area. The list of candidates includes the Bulls' Zach LaVine; Brandon Roy, who coached Porter at Nathan Hale; Isaiah Thomas, Nate Robinson, Aaron Brooks, Dejounte Murray and many others.

"I've been around for a while," Roy told the Tacoma News-Tribune during the 2017 state tournament. "He's the best player I've ever seen."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Mike Bethea, longtime coach of Seattle power Rainier Beach, has an even better perspective on Porter's place in Pacific Northwest basketball.

"My kid, Jamal Crawford, changed high school basketball in the state of Washington," Bethea said in the News-Tribune. "But anybody who says Michael isn't one of the best they've ever seen -- man, they need to get their head examined. Or quit commenting on basketball."

Bethea said the only high school player he'd seen better than Porter was LeBron James.

The Bulls have often talked about being impressed with a player's high school and AAU resume, especially when there isn't much else to go on. As a high school senior, Porter averaged 34.8 points and 13.8 rebounds.

After watching some of Porter's high school games on YouTube, my take is he's sort of a poor man's Kevin Durant meets poor man's Ben Simmons.

He has similarities to Durant because he's a 6-foot-11 forward whose best skill might be outside shooting. Whether he can come anywhere near Durant's level is anyone's guess. He's also a smooth athlete who can handle the ball, much like Simmons, but hasn't shown much of Simmons' playmaking ability. Porter is not a point guard.

In some ways, he resembles a taller version of LaVine, a player with plenty of skill and athleticism. The question is whether he can put together that special mix of defense, court sense, toughness and IQ that turns a talented player into an NBA winner.

The potential upside might make Porter an easy pick for the Bulls if he's available at No. 7, but there are plenty of questions.

The Daily Herald collected 10 NBA mock drafts from familiar sources -- ESPN, Yahoo, The Ringer, The Athletic, nba.com, nbadraft.net, si.com, CBS Sports, SBNation and Bleacher Report. The average draft position and range of selection is listed below.

For the record, these mock drafts had the Bulls taking Michael Porter Jr., Wendell Carter Jr., Mikal Bridges, Mo Bamba, Trae Young and Kevin Knox with the No. 7 pick. Boise State small forward Chandler Hutchison is the most popular prediction at No. 22.

Avg. pos. High Low

1. DeAndre Ayton, 7-0, C, Arizona 1.2 1 3

2. Marvin Bagley III, 6-11, PF, Duke 2.9 2 5

3. Luka Doncic, 6-8, SG, Real Madrid 3.2 1 5

4. Jaren Jackson Jr., 6-11, PF, Michigan St. 3.5 2 5

5. Mo Bamba, 7-0, C, Texas 5.3 3 7

6. Trae Young, 6-2, PG, Oklahoma 6.5 3 9

7. Michael Porter Jr., 6-11, SF, Missouri 6.6 4 9

8. Wendell Carter Jr., 6-10, PF/C, Duke 7.8 7 9

9. Mikal Bridges, 6-7, SF, Villanova 9.4 7 10

10. Collin Sexton, 6-2, PG, Alabama 10.5 6 14

11. Kevin Knox, 6-9, SF, Kentucky 11.8 7 20

12. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 6-6, PG, Kentucky 12.8 8 16

13. Miles Bridges, 6-7, SF, Michigan St. 13.0 9 15

14. Lonnie Walker, 6-5, SG, Miami 13.3 10 16

15. Robert Williams, 6-9, PF/C, Texas A&M 13.9 12 15

16. Zhaire Smith, 6-4, SG, Texas Tech 16.4 13 25

17. Troy Brown, 6-7, SF, Oregon 19.8 17 26

18. Kevin Huerter, 6-4, SG, Maryland 21.5 17 2nd rd

19. Elie Okobo, 6-2, PG, Pau Lacq Orthez 21.6 18 30

20. Aaron Holiday, 6-1, PG, UCLA 22.3 16 2nd rd

21. Donte DiVincenzo, 6-5, SG, Villanova 23.1 12 30

22. Dzanan Musa, 6-9, SF, Cedevita Zagreb 24.7 18 2nd rd

23. Mitchell Robinson, 7-1, C, Chalmette HS (La.) 24.8 17 2nd rd

24. Keita Bates-Diop, 6-8, SF, Ohio State 24.9 16 2nd rd

25. Chandler Hutchison, 6-7, SF, Boise State 24.9 22 2nd rd

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls.

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