The Clippers had back-to-back first-round picks at 12 and 13 and traded the 12th pick for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander before selecting shooting guard Jerome Robinson. Porter slipped to the Denver Nuggets at 14 after a back injury limited him to three appearances in his only season at Missouri.
Porter had a microdiscectomy of his L3-L4 spinal disks in November 2017 and then a second spinal surgery in July 2018.
On the eve of facing the Clippers in a best-of-seven Western Conference second-round series, the Nuggets rookie said he never thought about what it would have been like had he been drafted by the Clippers.
“No, their doctor was the one that wrote the report on me,” Porter said. “I think he wrote some stuff like he thought that I would never play basketball again so I didn’t think they’d pick me.”
Porter said he wasn’t expecting the Clippers to draft him.
“But, I mean, it’s going to be fun to play against them, for sure,” Porter said.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said that passing on the 6-foot-10 forward was a “brutal” process given the high level of concern the team had about Porter’s back.
“It was brutal for us,” Rivers said when asked how difficult it was to assess Porter on their draft board due to his back injury. “We had on our board, just the medical report, the red flag was so hot.”
“We got the one guy we wanted in [Gilgeous-Alexander],” Rivers added. “And the second pick, when he was on the board, it was a brutal pass because everyone in the room knew his talent but it was more the injury concern. That was the only other concern.”
After sitting out the 2018-19 season, Porter played sparingly during the regular season before the hiatus in mid-March. Given the opportunity to start because of injuries to Will Barton and Gary Harris, Porter emerged during the NBA restart in Orlando, Florida. He became a big and athletic target for Nikola Jokic, averaging 22.0 points, 8.6 rebounds and 55.1% shooting from the field to earn a spot on the second-team All-Seeding Games team.
The Clippers traded both Gilgeous-Alexander and Robinson in deals that landed them starters Paul George and Marcus Morris Sr. After a promising rookie season, Gilgeous-Alexander was dealt to Oklahoma City in the blockbuster deal for George last summer. And the Clippers sent Robinson to Washington as part of a three-team deal that helped them land Morris in February.
Porter averaged 12.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in his first postseason series against Dallas and had 10 points and nine rebounds in Denver’s Game 7 win.
“He has a big impact,” Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard said. “He can shoot the ball, rebound the ball, bring it up, transition, find guys that are open, create his own shots. Just as another scorer to the team. He also has some size on him. He can rebound on the offensive end, get some putbacks. That’s difficult to guard.”