If you don’t remember, Michael Porter Jr. was the number one recruit in his high school class. He was almost a consensus number one overall draft pick in preseason mock drafts. Porter committed to the University of Missouri, but then had back surgery and missed all but three games. In the draft, he dropped to the 14th pick where the Denver Nuggets took him. He missed his first full season, but when healthy there were comparisons to Kevin Durant. Now, head coach Michael Malone told reporters that Porter may not be in the rotation to begin the season. But if Porter can get good minutes before playoff time, then he could be the X-factor for Denver.
Michael Porter Jr. Could be an X-Factor for the Denver Nuggets
What Michael Porter Jr. Changes
Porter isn’t like other players who were hurt in college and then get drafted low. He arguably was the most talented player in a draft that included Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Deandre Ayton, and others. For Denver, they don’t really need him. Denver has a logjam at the small forward position, with Juan Hernangomez, Torrey Craig, and Will Barton all vying for minutes. But what plagued the Nuggets last year was production from that spot. Barton missed a large chunk of the season with an injury. Hernangomez and Craig filled in for him, but Hernangomez also went down with an injury and Craig struggled to produce offensively.
In the playoffs, Barton was the starter for the first three games but played so bad that Craig started the rest of the postseason. Porter can change all that. In four preseason games, Porter averaged 9.3 points per game and 4 rebounds per game in just 16 minutes. He also shot 55 percent from the field. Defensively, Porter is a little slow laterally, but he measured in at 6’10”, so he has the size to be a plus defender.
The Potential is Sky High
For the 72 seasons the NBA has been around, young cores have always been a big part of the future. The Denver Nuggets now, with Michael Porter Jr, have a top three young core in the league. They already had Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Monte Morris, Gary Harris, Malik Beasley, and they also added Jerami Grant over the offseason. With Porter’s size, talent, and athleticism, there is an argument that he could be the best player on the team.
In Porter’s last full season healthy he averaged 36.2 PPG and 13.6 RPG. Read those stats again. Let those sink in. If Porter and Grant start next season, A starting lineup would look something like this: Murray, Harris, Porter, Grant, and Jokic. With Jokic and Murray, they have two dynamite offensive players. Then with Harris and Grant, they have two players who can guard one through five defensively. At his full potential, Porter can be both. He can be both a lockdown defender with his length and a fantastic offensive presence with his shooting and off the dribble skills.
If, If, and One More If
Of course, all of this is circumstantial. There are so many “ifs” surrounding Michael Porter Jr. But that is what makes this Denver Nuggets team so great. They do not need Porter. Denver beat the Portland Trail Blazers in their season opener. Portland hadn’t lost a home opener in 18 years, and Barton and Craig were a big reason why that streak ended. Craig hit timely threes and held CJ McCollum to just 12 points. Barton scored 19 and made clutch free throws to ice the game late. Porter didn’t play a single second. The Nuggets don’t need him. But, once again, if Michael Porter Jr can play at his full potential, Denver goes from a title contender to a legitimate favorite.
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