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The Kings need a star. Why drafting Michael Porter Jr. makes sense

Michael Porter Jr. hits the hardwood at Mizzou Arena

Freshman Michael Porter Jr. and his Missouri Tigers men's basketball teammates went through drills Thursday at Mizzou Arena. The portion of practice was made public to reporters.
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Freshman Michael Porter Jr. and his Missouri Tigers men's basketball teammates went through drills Thursday at Mizzou Arena. The portion of practice was made public to reporters.

When the Kings make their selection with the No. 2 pick in Thursday's NBA draft, they should not base it on who could be the best player in 2018-19. This is about the next four or five years.

That's why if Michael Porter Jr.'s medical records check out — and there's been nothing to say they haven't — he must be the pick.

There has been widespread skepticism and curiosity as to why the Kings, who do not have a first-round pick in 2019, would take a chance on a player coming off a back injury so early in the draft.

Here's why drafting the Missouri forward makes sense: Players with his size (6-foot-10) and potential to be an elite scorer do not come around often. It also doesn't hurt that those happen to be two things the Kings desperately need as they figure out how to build this roster for years to come.

The Kings have drafted solid players, and some best suited to come off the bench, during their 12-year playoff drought, the longest in the NBA. The roster doesn't need any more solid players, it needs a guy who can transform a franchise.

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Simply put, the Kings need talented players who can start on most teams.

The Phoenix Suns are expected to select Arizona center Deandre Ayton at No. 1, leaving the Kings to consider Porter, Marvin Bagley III and Luka Doncic.

If not for Porter's back injury that limited him to three college games, this could be an easy choice. Porter was no worse than the second-best high school player in the country in 2017 and might have been a top-three pick last year if not for the NBA rule mandating he go to college for a season.

Porter didn't forget how to play basketball; he suffered an injury.

Ryan Blake, an NBA draft consultant who serves as the league's director of scouting services, said it's "difficult" to get a read on Porter. Because of his limited time on the court at Missouri, teams must do a lot of additional research.

The Kings aren't locked on one player and have been to Chicago twice, where Porter is working out, to see him since interviewing him at the NBA scouting combine in May.

Draft prospect Michael Porter Jr. is "motivated" to prove he's ready for the NBA.

"The work that (Porter) did before, from high school, was tremendous, there’s no doubt about it," Blake said. "... Everything he does is mature, he’s tall with a huge reach, he can shoot, that’s what we saw before. He moves well without the ball, with the ball, he can pass, all that stuff. But you’ve got to see it."

Porter had a microdiscectomy in November to deal with herniated discs in his back and returned to the court for Missouri's final two games of the season.

Assuming he's healthy, there's no reason to believe Porter can't live up to past projections. He said last month he's pain free for the first time since high school and out to prove why he should still be the top player in the draft.

Porter told ESPN Radio last week's change to his workout for NBA teams due to a hip injury was overblown.

"It was just a little sore, so I told (my agent) my hip was kind of sore and he just wanted to shut it down for a couple of days," Porter said. "And then people took that and kind of ran with it, saying my hip was injured, I couldn't get out of bed. ... None of that was really true. I was just sore and I wanted to take a couple of days off. So that's all that was."

Porter's talent aside, he'd add a much-needed infusion of attitude to the Kings. He has a confidence that he doesn't hide, and it's already turned off some NBA teams.

The Kings need attitude in their young core. How many times has coach Dave Joerger said his team was full of nice guys? And no, them being nice guys wasn't a compliment.

The Kings believe they've taken steps to create a positive culture in the locker room. Still, it's understandable there's concern about wrecking that culture.

But if this culture has been built right from the top down, Porter shouldn't be able to destroy it. The Kings can't sit back and watch Porter become this year's Joel Embiid, a highly talented player who slipped down some draft boards due to injury concerns, only to become an All-Star with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Kings must trust their top-notch medical staff – as they did for the past year with Harry Giles – and take the gamble on Porter.

"It is a high risk-high reward kind of deal," Blake said. "... As long as he’s healthy and the back’s good, and the medical comes back (good), you can make that investment."

On Dec. 29, 2014, Michael Porter Jr. took off just inside free-throw line in a consolation game against Raytown South in the Joe Machens Great 8 Classic at Jefferson City High School. Porter Jr.'s dunk landed on SportsCenter and put him on the nat

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