Steal of the draft? Nuggets may have hit the jackpot with Michael Porter Jr.

Michael Porter Jr. greets NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected as the No. 14 overall pick to the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the 2018 NBA draft.

NEW YORK — Michael Porter Jr. Has top-5 talent. But as the picks were unveiled Thursday at the NBA draft — No. 1, No. 2, No. 3. No. 4, No. 5 — Porter didn’t hear his name, slipping deeper and deeper into the middle of the first round.

On Wednesday, Porter said, “If I get drafted 15th, it’s going to be the best day of my life.”.

But as Porter kept hearing other names called and he sat with his parents and brother, he acknowledged the anxiety of the moment.

“I’m not going to lie to you, I was stressed out,” he said. “All that stress was overcome by joy the moment I got called, no matter what number it was. It’s been my dream since I was a kid. At the end of the day, the draft is a number and I wasn’t going to let an ego get in the way of my joy.”.

Porter fell to the Denver Nuggets at No. 14 because of his back, which required surgery on two discs in November. He released medical information to teams in the days leading up to the draft, and there is concern that Porter won’t be cleared to play by the start of the 2018-19 season, possibly missing a significant portion.

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Porter said he had strong interest from Sacramento at No. 2, Memphis at No. 4 and Dallas at No. 5. But before his pro day in Chicago, Porter was slowed by hip spasms, creating even more concern.

“Honestly, the teams at the very, very top of the draft told me last week I was their guy, they were going to take me. Then the hip episode happened, and then doctors got involved and they got scared. So once one team gets scared, a lot of them get scared. And that’s what caused the drop.”.

The pick could end up being a steal for Denver. At 14, it was low risk, high reward. Porter is a 6-11 scorer who was a projected No. 1 pick a year ago before his back problems.

The Nuggets had little contact with Porter prior to the draft. They attended his pro day workout, and Porter said he only shook hands with someone from the Nuggets.

But on Thursday before the draft, the Nuggets reached out and talked to Porter. Throughout the draft process, the Nuggets didn’t think they would have a chance at Porter so late, but that changed with the growing health concerns.


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    “That was my first time talking to them,” Porter said. “They were like, ‘We don’t think you’re going to make it to 14. You’ve never even been on our board. We thought you would be far gone. But if you do, that would be awesome. We’ll take it into consideration.’ “.

    Despite going from a potential top-3 pick all the way to 14th, Porter has handled the situation well for a 19-year-old.

    “I consider it a blessing because maybe the team I was going to go to at the top wasn’t the right team for me,” Porter said. “For me, we’re all in the NBA now. We’ll see who are the best players, and we’ll see who should have been the top draft picks. I’m just happy that it’s over with and I know I’m going.

    ” … It’s been my family, my agent who keep telling me positive things and keep making me believe the right things. They all believe in me. They all know I’m going to do great in this league and I’m going to have a long, successful career. Their whole message to me was you want to be with the organization that believes that as well.”.

    Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.

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