Starting Michael Porter Jr. is the best option for the Denver Nuggets next season?
The Denver Nuggets are one of the growing number of franchises being heralded for their player development thanks to the growth of players like Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray over the past few seasons. Michael Porter Jr., whom the Nuggets selected with the 14th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, has been another great project for the Denver and the forward made huge strides in the 2019-20 season.
After being out all of the 2018-19 season as the Nuggets decided to ‘medically redshirt’ the 6’10” forward, MPJ had something to prove; that he belongs in the league and can match high expectations.
Once 2019-2020 season started, Porter sprung into action early, playing his first game on Halloween.
55 games later, MPJ ended the season with averages of 9.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in 16.4 points per game; he averaged 20.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per 36 minutes. While he only started in eight regular season games as a rookie, the majority of them in the NBA’s bubble, he was incredible in the role with averages of 21.6 points and 8.3 rebounds in 32.4 minutes per game.
Due to his poor defensive technique and awareness, he lost his starting spot in the playoffs. However, he remained an x-factor for the Nuggets, averaging 11.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in the postseason.
Is he ready to take on a big role for next season?
Everyone who has watched Denver — at least since the NBA restart — has wondered how long it will take for MPJ to be a fixture in the Nuggets’ starting lineup. Defensive weaknesses aside, many believe that Porter is the piece that Denver is missing because of his explosive scoring and how well his skillset can compliment stars Jokic and Murray.
Fortunately for Porter, while his viability as a future starter tied into the team’s upcoming free agency period, his ability to play both forward spots greatly enhances his chances of starting next season.
Paul Millsap and Jerami Grant, who both started for the Nuggets the majority of their last playoff run, may both become free agents this offseason; Millsap undeniably will. Should one or both players leave the Nuggets for a new team in the offseason, Will Barton and MPJ may as well be penciled in as their replacements.
Even if one of Millsap or Grant return, which could be the most likely scenario, Porter could still find himself as a starter. Although Gary Harris has been a starter in Denver for the last five seasons, Barton would be a good option at two-guard because he’s a playmaker on both ends.
In any case, Barton was hobbled with a lingering injury throughout the NBA restart, and his injury history makes that a concern for the Nuggets. Over the past seven seasons, Barton has only played in more than 60 games on two occasions.
MPJ is the best option
There are multiple areas of improvement for MPJ to focus on this offseason, like ball-handling, facilitating and adding muscle to his frame so that he can continue to stand his ground when he takes contact. Even if Nuggets head coach Michael Malone wasn’t a defensive-minded coach, Porter’s defensive awareness and technique would need to improve as well.
Nonetheless, starting Porter — whether it’s at small forward or power forward — is the best option for Denver.
Porter is agile, confident and has a knack for making tough shots from all three levels.
When factoring in his rebounding — aided by his overall length and athleticism — he’s one of the most impactful frontcourt players that Denver has.