Michael Porter Jr. has had a coming out party for the Denver Nuggets during the NBA's Orlando bubble. As his team heads into the second round against the Los Angeles Clippers, the 22-year-old former first-round pick has a reason to be extra motivated.
Porter was an all-everything recruit coming out of high school and committed to Missouri. His freshman season with the Tigers was highly-anticipated but wound up becoming a nightmare. He suffered a serious back injury during the first half of Mizzou's first game and he missed almost the entire season. He returned to play in the final two games of the campaign before declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft.
He got mixed evaluations from doctors in the lead up to the draft because of his back injury. He went from a potential top pick to falling to the Nuggets at No. 14. One team with multiple chances to select him was the Clippers. They held the 12th and 13th picks and opted to pass on him.
Porter told Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix that the Clippers' doctor told Porter he'd never play basketball again.
That's pretty crazy and you can't blame Porter if he feels a little extra motivation to beat the Clippers.
Instead of Porter, the Clippers selected Miles Bridges and Jerome Robinson with their picks. They flipped Bridges to the Charlotte Hornets along with two second-round picks in exchange for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Gilgeous-Alexander was then shipped to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Paul George last summer. Robinson was traded to the Washington Wizards in a three-team deal with the Knicks that sent Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Morris to the Clippers. Thomas was subsequently waived.
Meanwhile, Porter has broken out in the bubble. He was named to the NBA's All-Seeding Games Second Team, and averaged 19.3 points and 7.5 rebounds in the eight regular season bubble games. In the first round against Utah, Porter continued his strong play, averaging 12.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game while shooting 41.7 percent from 3-point range and 44.9 percent from the field.
We'll see if those numbers tick up against the Clippers now that he's properly motivated.