When the news broke about Jontay Porter reinjuring his surgically repaired knee, the outpouring of sadness and disgust emanated throughout the basketball internet world. Obviously the overwhelming response was that of disappointment for a good kid and a good family who have found their home in Columbia, Missouri.
Porter, a likely top 20 pick in the NBA Draft, had gambled and returned to school in hopes of elevating his draft stock. He spent last offseason working on his body, transforming himself into a pro. He looked leaner, and meaner, and ready to break out and Missouri built their roster and offense in preparation of having an NBA 1st round pick as its centerpiece. Everything seemed to be coming together until a secret scrimmage occurred between Southern Illinois and the Tigers when Porter suffered a serious knee injury.
The ACL tear is a fairly common knee injury these days and hasn’t been nearly as catastrophic in it’s impact on careers as it used to be. Mizzou adapted to life with Jontay about as well as could’ve been expected, Cuonzo Martin took a young team and they fought their way to a 15-17 record.
But I don’t think you ever anticipate the news of Porter’s knee being re-injured. With a torn knee ligament Porter went from probably being a lottery pick, to still likely being a 1st round pick, and most draft projections had him in the 20s. Here’s a small collection of the available Mock Drafts, most updated within the last month:
- ESPN: 24
- CBSSports: 28
- SBNation: 17
- NBA Draft.net: 23
- NBCSports: 21
- SI.com: 26
- TheStepien: 6 (their projections aren’t really a mock draft just prospect rankings)
I asked Sam Vecenie, from TheAthletic.com about how this might impact Jontay’s decision to turn pro or not, here’s what he had to say:
It really throws a significant question as to what he should do. The family obviously has a significant injury history even beyond Michael and Jontay, which raises questions about if you can trust Porter to stay healthy. For Jontay, that question is particularly relevant given that his frame was one of the biggest hang-ups about his draft stock. I’m not sure there is really a “good” option for Porter in regard to declaring or not declaring, given that he is likely out for all of next year, too.
For NBA teams, the question will be: is this someone worth using a roster spot on for the next year while he doesn’t play? I think there are teams out there that would consider it. Would they continue to consider it in the first round? With the emergence of big men like Bruno Fernando, Daniel Gafford, Jaxson Hayes, PJ Washington, Goga Bitadze, Brandon Clarke, Bol Bol, maybe Jalen Smith, there will be no shortage of big men for teams to take a look at in the draft. Do I think Porter is better than some of those guys? Sure, I do. But can an NBA team trust him to stay healthy? That’s something that team doctors will have to determine — and something Porter will need to be honest with himself about after hearing feedback in regard to what he should do.
Before the injury, Vecenie (who in my opinion is easily one of the top NBA draft follows) had Porter going 20th to the Spurs — a team who was notably interested in him last year. But what Vecenie says is right, how are teams going to look at a twice injured knee versus only having one injury is depending on the team. The NBA is a business and investing financially in a player with two ACL tears in the span of five months isn’t a good look. Further, as Vecenie points out, it’s not as if the family has a clean medical history on their side.
So if his draft stock slides due to the injury, does that mean Porter should return to school?
This is a really difficult question to answer.
There’s reason to think being at home surrounded by family and in a program he’s familiar with giving him at least another season to rebuild his health might be a good thing. The only issue with that train of thought in Porter coming back is the timeline.
If you remember Cullen VanLeer injured his knee in the same way, non-contact ACL tear, at the beginning of March. He ‘retired’ from basketball because he wasn’t going to be physically ready for the start of the season and be ready to contribute to the team.
Jontay faces a similar issue with a second knee surgery likely forcing him into a six month recovery timeline before he can be cleared for basketball activities. Six months from now is the end of September and that’s just getting back into basketball activities. That doesn’t mean he’s physically ready to play.
And if Porter isn’t going to play but be on the team he’s essentially filling up a scholarship for a spot the Tigers might need.
As we speak Mizzou technically only has one scholarship to give out next year, and that’s if they move Ronnie Suggs back to a walk-on role.
Even if Porter comes back to school next year, when would he be available to play? And if he’s healthy how much risk does he incur by playing for free in college?
It’s for those two questions that I would encourage Jontay to forgo his college eligibility and stay in the NBA draft. Risk getting taken lower than you’d prefer, but try to find the right situation behind the scenes with a team and franchise who understand the situation and will provide you the necessary opportunity to get healthy. Sign a franchise friendly deal for a couple years and get yourself right by the middle of next season. If you’re ready to play by early 2020 you can hop in on some G-league action with an eye to putting yourself on a roster in the 2020-21 season.
The NBA league season is a long one so maybe he’s even able to help out shortly before the playoffs that’s still a professional contract and professional basketball a little more than a year after this second knee injury.
As much as I would love a healthy Porter running offense for Missouri I tend to think Jontay is just much better off going pro and finding a team who will take on the risk.