Knowing some teams considered him a gamble, maybe even a risk, Michael Porter Jr. just wanted to go somewhere that believed in him, which is apparently Denver.
NEW YORK — The first time Michael Porter Jr. actually talked to anyone from the Denver Nuggets was Thursday at the NBA draft. He didn’t think there was any need, and neither did the Nuggets.
The fact that he was available at No. 14 surprised both parties, regardless of Porter’s well-documented back and recent hip issues.
Porter, who won a state championship at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle, thinks he shook hands with someone from the Nuggets after his pro day workout. He said the first time he spoke to someone from the organization was when he was drafted.
Still, he made enough of an impression for the Nuggets brain trust to make him the last lottery pick selected Thursday night.
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“I’m not going to lie to you — I was stressed out,” Porter said. “All that stress was overcome by joy the moment I got called, no matter what number it was. It’s been my dream since I was a kid.
“At the end of the day, the draft is a number and I wasn’t going to let an ego get in the way of my joy. I’m happy to be where I’m at, and I feel like it’s the perfect situation for me.”
Albeit an unexpected situation.
Everything Porter knew about the Nuggets was hearsay — “a great city, a great organization.” He didn’t invest much of his time prior to the draft getting to know the team.
“Honestly, the teams at the very, very top of the draft told me last week I was their guy, they were going to take me,” Porter said. “Then the hip episode happened and then doctors got involved. … So once one team gets scared, a lot of them get scared.”
That’s how he dropped.
Porter also had the back history as a red flag. He played only three games at Missouri, 53 minutes total. He suffered a back injury and had to undergo surgery.
Knowing some teams considered him a gamble, maybe even a risk, Porter just wanted to go somewhere that believed in him, which is apparently Denver.
“I consider it a blessing,” Porter said, “because maybe the team I was going to go to at the top wasn’t the right team for me.”
Right or wrong, it will cost him. Porter is guaranteed $2.4 million. First-pick Deandre Ayton will get at least $6.7 million.
Many fans at Barclays Center wanted Porter to go earlier, specifically ninth. As soon as the New York Knicks were on the clock, chants of Porter’s name broke out. Porter looked over to a crowd of fans and smiled.
Both parties were disappointed when commissioner Adam Silver announced Kevin Knox’s name instead.
“We’re all in the NBA now,” Porter said. “We’ll see who are the best players, and we’ll see who should have been the top draft picks.”
Ayton goes No. 1
The Phoenix Suns stayed close to home for their first No. 1 pick. The Dallas Mavericks looked all the way to Slovenia for the player they hope can be their next European superstar.
Shortly after the Suns took Deandre Ayton to start the NBA draft, the Mavericks traded up two spots for the rights to Luka Doncic.
The Atlanta Hawks swapped the rights to Doncic, the No. 3 pick who has spent the last year winning championships all over Europe, to Atlanta for Trae Young, the No. 5 selection from Oklahoma.
The Mavericks also gave up a future first-round pick to draft Doncic. His lengthy European season kept him from working out for teams but he knew the Mavericks were interested in having him on their team for what’s expected to be Dirk Nowitzki’s final NBA season.
The Hawks will get perhaps the most exciting player in college basketball last season in Young, the first player to lead the nation in scoring and assists in the same season.
The Sacramento Kings followed the Suns by taking Marvin Bagley III, the Duke big man who played with Ayton at Hillcrest Prep Academy in Phoenix in 2015-16.
With Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. going fourth to Memphis, Texas center Mo Bamba going No. 6 to Orlando and Wendell Carter Jr. following to Chicago, it was an early run of big men in what’s increasingly become a perimeter-based league. Then it was another guard, with Alabama’s Collin Sexton going at No. 8 to Cleveland.