Babcock Hoops’ draft analysts Matt Babcock and Matt McKay Jr. share their opinions on the suddenly precarious situation of NBA prospect Jontay Porter following his latest injury and whether they think he should stay in school or go pro.
What do you like most about Jontay as a prospect? What makes him intriguing for the NBA level?
Matt Babcock: Jontay has terrific positional size at 6’11” as he is capable of playing the power forward and center positions effectively, when healthy. He is very skilled offensively as he possesses good shooting mechanics and he has shown promise as a big man that can stretch the floor, which serves tremendous value in today’s modern game. He is also a very good passer and has a good overall feel.
Matt McKay Jr: What makes Jontay intriguing from an NBA perspective, in my opinion: his combination of size and high BBIQ, outside shooting touch, interior defense, as well as his ability to survey the court and execute high-level passes. Despite two ACL surgeries, I’m still bullish that someone that young will be able to recover, get his body right in an NBA-level training environment, and retain a large percentage of all of those aforementioned skills.
What range did you have Jontay slated prior to the most recent ACL injury? Where do you view his draft range now? And why?
Matt Babcock: I had Jontay projected as a late 1st round pick in this year’s draft, before his most recent ACL injury. I evaluated Jontay last year when he tested the draft waters following his freshman season, and I was impressed! If and when healthy, I see him as a serviceable big man that is capable of being able to stretch the floor and being a solid player overall, especially offensively.
Following his latest injury, I now have him slipping to a mid-2nd round pick as I know there are teams that do like him and might be willing to accept the risk. However, Jontay’s lack of athleticism was somewhat of concern already. Last year he attended the NBA draft combine and had the highest body fat percentage recorded of any of the participants. And now, after his second ACL tear since then, I worry that he is not going to be able to hold up physically. If I were a team, I would lean on team doctors heavily to properly evaluate the level of risk we would be taking if deciding to draft him. Although I only have him slipping to the mid-2nd round in my current rankings, I am fearful that he will be red-flagged by team doctors which will put his market value in complete jeopardy.
Matt McKay Jr: Last month I had Jontay pegged as a top-20 pick in June. In light of this news, he moves back 5-10 slots on my board. If anything, I think this latest injury will all but ensure that Jontay lands somewhere ideal: a team that can afford to let him sit out the 2019-20 season in order to get his knee back to full strength. Are two ACL injuries worrisome? Absolutely. Is it a deal-breaker? Not for me. Jontay’s game hasn’t ever been predicated on dynamic athleticism (that might diminish a bit following two ACL surgeries).
If you were advising Jontay, what would you suggest he do? Go back to school? Enter the draft?
Matt Babcock: I don’t think there is necessarily a right or wrong decision in this case. If he is interested in turning pro I would advise that he take advantage of the new NCAA rules and put his name in the draft, utilize the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee, hire an agent and gather some feedback from teams while still preserving his eligibility and allowing him to return to school if he chooses. This process should also include medical evaluations by teams which are very important in his case. Once that information has been gathered, I think Jontay should weigh out the pros and cons and figure out what his priorities are… some questions I would ask him would be: Do you think you can get proper medical care at Missouri? How much do you value the college experience and being with peers? With the information you’ve gathered from the advisory board and your agent, are you comfortable leaving school if the lower side of your draft projection becomes reality?
Matt McKay Jr: The decision to reclassify to the high school class of 2017 is looking smarter than ever because even if Jontay has to miss two full consecutive seasons due to back-to-back ACL tears, he’ll still be a youthful 20 years old when the 2020-21 NBA season begins. If he stays in the draft, he gets drafted. Regardless of where he gets drafted, it’s not going to be to a team that is in need of immediate help. At this point, I don’t envision a scenario where Jontay plays an actual game until the 2020-21 season. If you are RUSHING him back, there’s a world where he could theoretically return at some point next season - but my question is, why would you rush him back? From my perspective, Jontay needs to decide whether he’d be better off rehabbing for the next year at Missouri or in an NBA sports performance program.