What do the Denver Nuggets have in Michael Porter Jr.?
Photo Credit: Open Court
The Denver Nuggets 2019 off-season has been quiet, relative to many of the other teams in the Western Conference. Jerami Grant is the only addition and the only other major move was Jamal Murray signing a long-term deal. In order to further compete in the Western Conference, the Nuggets are banking heavily on internal player development and Michael Porter Jr. to live up to the immensely-talented player he was once regarded as.
Porter Jr. averaged an insane 36 points and nearly 14 rebounds a game his senior year of high school while winning a 3A state championship and going undefeated (29-0). Porter Jr played his senior year under once-dominant NBA player Brandon Roy and was one the top-rated high school players in the country. He was committed to the University of Washington until a coaching change by the University forced him to de-commit and join the Missouri Tigers, where his father was an assistant coach and his brother was playing.
As the story goes, he sustained a back injury in the first half of his first game, underwent surgery and was expected to miss the remainder of his freshman year. He recovered faster than expected and was cleared to play in the SEC tournament quarterfinals and the NCAA tournament, which unfortunately both ended at the hands of the Florida State Seminoles.
In his lone NCAA tournament game, Porter Jr. had a solid stat line of 16 points and 10 boards along with three steals, while getting to the free-throw line nine times and playing 28 minutes off the bench. Unfortunately, he only shot 33 percent from the field and an atrocious 25 percent from three. From the limited sample size and hype he generated in high school, he declared for the 2018 NBA draft and was selected by the Denver Nuggets after falling to 14th overall.
After sitting out his entire rookie season rehabbing from his previous surgery and working on strength and conditioning, he was expected to play in the 2019 Summer league. However, another setback took place as Porter Jr. sprained his left knee in a Wednesday night scrimmage preparing for that Friday’s Summer League game. Reports are he could have played, but the Nuggets decided to hold him out as a precautionary measure.
Will Porter Jr. be the 36-14 player he was in High School? Will he be closer to a solid role player at 16-10 as he showed in his NCAA tournament game? Will he be the next Kevin Durant as he was projected to be, an unbelievably lengthy forward with ‘score from anywhere’ ability and ball-handling skills?
Or will he be closer to a Greg Oden, all the talent in the world, but injuries and a series of unfortunate events keeping him from the floor? From a Nuggets perspective, his teammate rave that he is playing amazing ball in camp and that is clearly a difference-maker that makes the team better.
What fans can expect is that Michael Porter Jr. will join the Nuggets roster this season as a tall and long (7-foot wingspan) small forward that has shown, in his minimal tape, the ability and willingness to shoot the three-ball as well as get to the rim and the ability to finish through contact.
If Porter Jr. can be that knockdown three-point shooter and can play through Mike Malone’s offense, he has a chance to be a serious impact player without the pressure of being the team’s best player. For MPJ, 2019 will be his year for redemption, proving that 13 teams passed on a top-rated player because of fear, and Oct. 23 against the Portland Trailblazers will be the start of his Rookie of the Year campaign.