Michael Porter Jr. and the Denver Nuggets may just be too good to be true.
The Michael Porter Jr. Experience is not for the weak of heart, as the Denver Nuggets’ forward’s play style vacillates from reckless, daring and exciting to innocuous, passive and forgettable. From a sure sign that a star is waiting to be born to laughability, as Porter’s lowlights become as magnified as his highlights.
Despite both Porter and the Nuggets’ having the best intentions for one another, one has to wonder whether or not MPJ fits not only Denver’s championship timeline but their roster as it’s currently composed.
This isn’t because Porter doesn’t have the talent, of course, or even the intangibles. But because he doesn’t have the opportunity that he so clearly wants.
The closest comparisons, in recent years, are the role that Dennis Schroder played with the Oklahoma City Thunder, that Carmelo Anthony played with the Portland Trail Blazers and that Gordon Hayward played with the Boston Celtics. However, when factoring in Porter’s youth, his situation in Denver is highly reminiscent of James Harden and the Thunder, when Oklahoma City had Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and he was coming off the bench.
That said, while the Nuggets may not want to surrender a player as promising as Porter, it’s not as if they haven’t done so in recent years.
Though it’ll officially go down as a trade, Jerami Grant chose to leave and star with the Detroit Pistons as the go-to player he would’ve had no chance to be in Denver.
Nonetheless, the Nuggets traded Malik Beasley to the Minnesota Timberwolves last February, and he’s now averaging a career-high 21.0 points per game this season. They traded Jusuf Nurkic to the Portland Trail Blazers in 2017, where he filled up the stat sheet over the next three seasons (14.9 points, 9.6 rebounds. 2.5 assists and 1.4 blocks per game). Even veterans haven’t been spared, as Denver traded Danilo Gallinari for a second-round pick in 2017, despite the forward averaging 18.2 points per game and shooting 38.9% from 3-point range.
Simply put, while they may thrive in player development, Denver has consistently shown that it’s a franchise that will trade players that need a role bigger than they feel they can provide.
In addition, with Porter eligible for a rookie scale extension in the 2021 offseason, it’s nearing the time for the Nuggets to put their money where there mouth is in regards to their belief in MPJ as a player.
As you might have heard, Porter has obvious holes to his game, most of which could come down to inexperience and playing a role — that of a tertiary scorer — that he’s only had to play at the NBA level. However, there are undoubtedly plenty of suitors for a young and vertically explosive 6’10” forward with a sweet shooting stroke and the ability to convert tough shots with ease.
With The Athletic’s Sam Amick reporting that the Nuggets had seriously considered trading for James Harden, the reality is that Denver has already put thought into putting MPJ in a package that would land them a star player.
The name most frequently associated with Porter is Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, although there’s a lack of interest from both sides until they get more clarity on their respective situations. That said, it may not be until the trade deadline or after but if the Nuggets’ win-loss record isn’t near what they would like it to be and Porter is still fitting in like a square peg in a round hole, then his naming cropping up in trade rumors is all but predictable.
Keep in mind that after averaging 19.5 points per game in December, the second-year pro is averaging 11.6 points per game in February as he attempts to take shots *insert air quotes* within the flow of the offense.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the structure of Denver’s hierarchy is limiting MPJ. Maybe him averaging career-highs across the board wouldn’t lead a bottom-barrel team to a respectable record; it hasn’t for Grant and the Pistons. Nonetheless, Grant is certainly getting his respect league-wide and even earning All-Star consideration.
Porter is perhaps the most polarizing player in Denver since Carmelo Anthony himself and if the Nuggets do trade him, it will never be a win for Denver in the sense that they weren’t able to unlock MPJ’s potential. As anyone can tell you, superstars that were drafted by the franchise always feel more special to it than the ones who weren’t.
Unfortunately for the city and the franchise, the writing is on the wall for now. The real question is if there’s anything that can stop the inevitable from happening.