Yesterday we set the table for the offseason with the basics of who we know, or at least are pretty sure are coming back. We left out two very, very big decisions for two very, very good players.
Will Michael Porter Jr. play for Missouri again next season?
Smart money would say no way.
Trae Young, Porter’s best friend, has already declared. Mohamed Bamba, a likely top-five pick, has declared as well. Before too long, Marvin Bagley will join that group, with DeAndre Ayton, Jarren Jackson, Wendell Carter and others to follow.
There are a lot of reasons why Michael Porter Jr. should not only go to the NBA draft this year, but why he should reasonably be picked before most of the other players available. There are few reasons why he should come back to Missouri for a sophomore season ... well, except for this:
“I always kind of wanted to be the type of player that could go to a school that could make a difference,” Porter said Wednesday at the Southeastern Conference men’s basketball media day. “I didn’t want to go to a Kansas or a Kentucky where I could be just another great player. I wanted to go to a school where I could make a difference and leave a legacy.”
He didn’t envision playing two games, shooting poorly, and losing twice. This isn’t what we all envisioned.
The excitement of Porter’s commitment, and the team it helped Cuonzo Martin build, is a form of legacy in its own way. Obviously without Michael you don’t have Jontay or maybe Jeremiah Tilmon. So in a way, even without playing, Michael Porter Jr. helped Mizzou get back to the NCAA tournament just a season after winning eight games.
But is that enough for him? Making millions and playing the NBA is the ultimate goal here, but is that enough for Mike and what he wanted to accomplish at Mizzou?
It might very well be. I can’t answer the question, and neither can you. Only MPJ can answer the question. I’m sure that if you ask him right now, with the freshness of his failures still in his mind, he would say he’s let Missouri fans down. We wanted more, he wanted to give us more, and he wasn’t able to.
The odds of Michael’s return aren’t great, but they exist, and for some segment of Mizzou’s fanbase that’s enough to harbor hope. If Michael comes back, Jontay Porter comes back too. There are no scenarios in which MPJ plays for Mizzou next year, and Jontay ends up with a two-way contract between Rio Grande Valley and the Houston Rockets.
If both Porters are in the Missouri lineup next season, expectations change substantially.
The main target, and perhaps only target left on the board then, is Courtney Ramey. Sure, you have backups, but if you’re only filling one spot you want it to be the elite point guard from Webster Groves.
If Ramey goes elsewhere, you move on to a ball-handling graduate transfer. For now, we’ll pretend if the Porters come back, Mizzou gets its point guard as well.
- PG: Xavier Pinson, Courtney Ramey
- CG: Jordan Geist
- WING: Cullen VanLeer, Javon Pickett, Torrence Watson
- CF: Kevin Puryear, Michael Porter Jr., K.J. Santos
- POST: Reed Nikko, Jontay Porter, Jeremiah Tilmon, Mitchell Smith
With Porter and Santos capable of playing on the wing it helps bolster a relatively thin back court. But looking at two Porters, Tilmon, Puryear, Smith, and Nikko, you see great depth in the front court.
This is the kind of roster which really inflates expectations — you expect to land in the preseason top 25, you expect the have a double bye in the SEC tournament, and you expect a protected seed in the NCAA Tournament. It’s a roster with Final Four potential.
THIS ALL SOUNDS GREAT.
But it isn’t very likely to happen. So let’s talk about what is LIKELY to happen tomorrow.