In the 2018 NBA Draft, Michael Porter Jr. of the Missouri Tigers became the 14th overall pick when the Denver Nuggets identified him as their selection. That means — and follow closely, because the math gets a little tough right here — 13 teams had the opportunity to choose Porter but passed.
After watching him reach double-figures in scoring in seven games played this month in the NBA's bubble, an average of 22 points per game, and then open his first-ever playoff game with three 3-pointers in the first half, some began to question the wisdom of so many teams leaving Porter on the board for so long a couple of summers back.
Porter is 6-10, 218 pounds and was 19 years old on the night the 2018 draft was conducted. He had a demonstrated ability to shoot from the perimeter and agility and dynamism uncommon for a player his size.
He also played only three college games at Mizzou because of herniated disks in his back.
So was it crazy to pass on a 6-10 shooter who'd been one of the top prospects in his recruiting class a year earlier, even if he had an injury affecting perhaps the most complicated structural apparatus on the human body and required not one, but two surgeries to correct?
Or, more to the point, how crazy was it for each of the 12 teams to ignore Porter?
No. 1: Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton (Career averages: 17.0 ppg, 10.7 rpg)
This pick still leads to the Suns catching heat for other reasons (reasons named Luka Doncic). But after two years in the league, Ayton is averaging a double-double. He still needs to improve as a rim protector, but he has a chance to be a special player.
Crazy rating: NOT AT ALL
No. 2: Sacramento Kings, Marvin Bagley III (Career averages: 14.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg)
It's still hard to understand how the Kings allowed Doncic to fall to the Mavericks. Bagley was not an elite college shooter, the kind of player who easily projected as a stretch-4. He was not a proficient defender at Duke, either. He can get buckets, but such a player is not going to turn around a historically poor NBA team.
Crazy rating: VERY, BUT FOR OTHER REASONS
No. 3: Atlanta Hawks (traded to Mavericks), Luka Doncic (Career averages: 24.7 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 7.3 apg)
Look at those numbers. We're done here.
Crazy rating: CRAZY LIKE A FOX
No. 4: Memphis Grizzlies, Jaren Jackson Jr. (Career averages: 15.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg)
Jackson is not quite as fluid with the ball as Porter, but he already has excelled as a long-distance shooter (nearly 200 threes after two seasons) and is a vastly better defender.
Crazy rating: NOT IN THE LEAST
No. 5: Dallas Mavericks (traded to Hawks), Trae Young (Career averages: 23.6 ppg, 8.6 apg)
Young is such an amazing offensive player that he was selected to the All-Star Game in his second season. He'll never be an elite defender, but neither was Steve Nash, and he won two MVP awards because of how he controlled a game. The problem was, Atlanta traded its No. 3 overall pick to Dallas for this pick and one in 2019.
Crazy rating: NOT BAD, BUT THEY COULDA HAD LUKA
No. 6: Orlando Magic, Mohamed Bamba (Career averages: 5.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg)
Bamba has some positive qualities as a player, but this looked like a curious pick at the time and keeps getting curiouser and curiouser as players taken well after him perform at a higher level.
Crazy rating: PRETTY CRAZY
No. 7: Chicago Bulls, Wendell Carter Jr. (Career averages: 10.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg)
Carter was the definition of a safe pick when the Bulls chose him. He looked big and tough on paper, looked big and tough at Duke and has been big and tough for the Bulls. He nearly averaged a double-double for the Bulls in his second year. But for him to be a better value than Porter, he's going to need to escalate either the points (11.3 per game) or rebounds (9.4) toward high-level production. And he doesn't have the offensive skill to make the first happen.
Crazy rating: SAFETY FIRST
No. 8: Cleveland Cavaliers, Collin Sexton (Career averages: 18.5 ppg, 3.0 apg)
Sexton is in an absolute mess of a franchise, and someone has to score the points. But he is shooting stronger percentages from the field and from 3-point range and has a burst that is rare even among NBA players. Kyle Lowry didn't average double-figure scoring until his fifth year in the league. Now he's an NBA champion. There's still a high ceiling for Sexton.
Crazy rating: ONLY THE CRITICS
No. 9: New York Knicks, Kevin Knox (Career averages: 9.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
I liked Kevin Knox as a college player, and I'm not ready to concede that he's going to be an ordinary pro. But he never had the look of a future All-Star, and the Knicks' perpetual mediocrity cried out for them to take a swing at a player of exorbitant talent when presented the opportunity this deep in the draft.
Crazy rating: AS ALWAYS
No. 10: Philadelphia 76ers (traded to Suns), Mikal Bridges (Career averages: 8.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
The Suns' desire to build a winning culture required that, at some point, selecting a player who understood winning. So they traded for this pick. Bridges was a foundational piece of Villanova's 2018 squad, one of the great recent NCAA champions. There was a plan here, even if it meant selecting a player less overpowering than Porter.
Crazy rating: NOPE
No. 11: Charlotte Hornets (traded to Clippers), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Career averages: 14.6 ppg, 3.3 apg)
Gilgeous-Alexander was one of the revelations of the 2019-20 season, following a trade from LA to Oklahoma City. He scored 19 points per game and, though he struggled at times during his college career, has shown ability to connect on deep shots. He has started nearly every game he has played over two seasons, and he was the key piece that helped the Clippers acquire Paul George — and guarantee they would sign Kawhi Leonard — last summer.
Crazy rating: DON'T THINK SO
No. 12: Los Angeles Clippers (traded to Hornets), Miles Bridges (Career averages: 9.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg)
Bridges is going to be a fine NBA player, but would you rather have a 6-11 scoring wing or a 6-6 scoring wing?
Crazy rating: HIGH LEVEL
No. 13: Los Angeles Clippers, Jerome Robinson (Career averages: 4.5 ppg, 1.1 apg)
This was such an ideal pick for the Clips that they only waited 20 months to trade him. This one felt like they were trying too hard to be the smartest in the room. Not that it'll matter in LA, but Robinson got the chance with the Wizards to play a ton of minutes in the bubble games because Bradley Beal was out injured; he averaged 15 points and 36.7 shooting from deep. Whether he can play remains to be seen. Whether it was a good pick was established as soon as Porter began playing regularly.
Crazy rating: BAT