CHICAGO — Michael Porter Jr. sees himself as the best player in the NBA draft.
Do the 76ers agree? If so, would they be willing to trade up to select the Missouri small forward, who missed most of his freshman season because of back surgery? .
Porter, who measured 6-foot-9 ¼ without shoes here at the NBA draft combine, is projected to go eighth to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA.com consensus mock draft. He could even become a top-5 selection with strong predraft workouts.
The Sixers, who have the 10th and 26th picks in the June 21 draft, interviewed the 19-year-old this week at the NBA scouting combine. Based on his remarks, one has to assume he believes they would be making a great investment if they moved up to draft him.
"I mean, I played against all these guys," said Porter, who was the 2017 national high school player of the year. "They're all great players, but I'm the best player in this draft."
Yep, the Columbia, Mo., native will tell you he's better than the three players battling for the draft's No. 1 pick: Arizona's Deandre Ayton, Real Madrid's Luka Doncic, and Duke's Marvin Bagley.
Ayton, a 7-footer, skipped the camp. Doncic isn't here because his team is participating in the EuroLeague final four, but the guard said this week that he wasn't sure about leaving Europe for the NBA next season. Bagley interviewed only with select teams at the combine.
In addition to the Sixers, Porter said he has met, or plans to meet, with the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets, Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns, Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies and Washington Wizards at the combine.
He will not participate in on-court workouts here, however. But Porter stressed that his health isn't a concern after returning March 8 in an SEC quarterfinal loss to Georgia. His season concluded one game later with a first-round setback to Florida State in the NCAA tournament.
"I knew I wasn't going to put on a show, or be the Mike that they [NBA scouts] saw a few months [earlier]," he said of his decision to play in those games. "The way I was thinking about it was just, they'll know the player I am in a few months."
Porter played in those two games despite suffering what was believed to be a season-ending lower-back injury in the first half of the season opener against Iowa State on Nov. 10. He had a successful microdiscectomy of his L3-L4 spinal disks.
He first injured his back while being undercut on a dunk during his sophomore season in high school. Porter said he overcompensated while the pain lingered, before playing just two minutes and scoring two points against the Cyclones.
"It was a very minimally invasive surgery," Porter said. "… I feel pain-free, and I feel better than I've felt for a long time."
At the NBA combine, players are often asked about things in their past – positive and negative.
In Donte DiVincenzo's case, the Villanova guard was asked about some offensive tweets from his Twitter account several years ago. He has since deleted the account, which has been dormant since June 2016.
But those old tweets were brought up after the Wildcats defeated Michigan for the NCAA title on April 2.
"I never said those things. I never tweeted those things," he said. "But somehow or another they ended up on my twitter. I took ownership and responsibility for it.
"But moving forward, I put it behind me, because the people around me know what kind of person I am and know I did not say those things."
Duke center Wendell Carter Jr. heard that he could go anywhere from No.3 to 18 in the draft. However, he's likely to be off the board by the time the Sixers select at 10. He could be an enticing pick for the Sixers if the falls to the 10th spot. Carter, who measured at 6-8 ¾ without shoes at the combine, could provide depth in the frontcourt.
"It went well," he said of his combine interview with the Sixers. "They came in, knowing that they have an exceptional frontcourt, they were excited to meet me. I was excited to meet with them. We had a good conversation."
Carter said he would try to outwork whoever is in front of him.
"That's the beauty of the beast," he added.
He knows that players are going to be in front him due to having multiple years of experience in the system.
"They all know exactly what it will take," Carter said. "I will learn those things and let the best man win."
DiVincenzo and his Villanova teammate Omari Spellman have until May 30 to withdraw their names from the draft because they have not hired agents.
For the time being, the duo is showcasing themselves to NBA teams.
In addition to meeting with the squad here at the combine, Spellman has already worked out for the Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, Brooklyn Nets and Cavaliers. He has workouts scheduled with the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz.