Denver Nuggets: How Michael Porter Jr and Aaron Gordon are key for playoff success

Jan 25, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. (1) dunks during the second quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 25, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. (1) dunks during the second quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

With the recent injury to Jamal Murray, every member of the Denver Nuggets will be asked to step up, but none more than Michael Porter Jr and Aaron Gordon. Denver needs one of the two to step up and become the second option and if the recent play has been any indication Porter might be that answer.

Michael Porter Jr and Aaron Gordon are key for Denver Nuggets success

Michael Porter Jr is coming alive as of late, scoring efficiently in the paint when switched onto guards and quickly rising over slower forwards and centers. Porter will be an intricate part of the Nuggets’ success in the playoffs. Porter will be asked to do even more which could prove beneficial for his development as a scorer and overall player.

Against the Trail Blazers on Wednesday, it was clear Portland had no answers for Porter early. In the first quarter alone, he had 17 points on 8-8 shooting. However, he finished with only those 17 points but seemed to get to his spots all night long, his jumper just wasn’t falling. In the second half, he got out of attacking the rim and settled for more jumpers.

He blazed past forwards Nassir Little and Carmelo Anthony with ease, this led to a plethora of easy looks at the rim. When they put a better defender such as Robert Covington on him, he definitely seemed uncomfortable and frustrated against the stout defense. He needs to get used to intense defense and needs to play through his offensive struggles better.

Over the last year, he is averaging just under 18 points with 7.7 rebounds per game. Porter seems to quickly be getting the feel for the NBA game, making smarter decisions, and attacking the glass on both ends of the floor, utilizing his length with tremendous efficiency.

Denver will likely rely on him to fill the second option and the flaming scoring ability they lost in Murray.

He effortlessly finishes around the rim and has the athleticism to hang in the air to avoid defenders or fly high and jump over them. His ability to score off the dribble mirrors a young Kevin Durant; he is truly a special player and has a real chance to make a name for himself if he can stay healthy. If he can continue to improve the Nuggets might have a real shot at the Western Conference Finals.

With most NBA defenses switching almost everything in the pick and roll, the Nuggets force a mismatch seemingly every time down the floor.

Gordon will need to be more aggressive and hunt for his shot more in the paint and the midrange. Since joining the Nuggets, he is only shooting 25 percent from beyond the arc. With the team’s incredible length he often finds himself switched onto smaller guards, which he loves to take into the mid-post and the paint.

When against guards he should look to hunt for his shot in the paint more instead of fading away for a tough jumper. While he is able to hit this shot, he will likely have an easier look at the rim.

Gordon is an excellent cutter, ranking in the 82nd percentile among all players this season. He shoots 74.1% as a cutter, and he has been more efficient with the spacing Denver offers.

Gordon would have been the ultimate fourth option for this team pre-Murray injury as a simple screener and slasher but now Denver needs him to step up and take over as the second or third option. He is more than capable of this role, as he proved in Orlando, however, he will need to be more efficient if the Nuggets want to find success in the playoffs.

Defensively both Gordon and Porter will need to find a bigger role to take some of the pressure of Nikola Jokic.

Porter has stepped up tremendously on the glass and providing energy on the defensive end. This season he has 15 double-doubles with some impressive rebounding performances. Just a month ago he had a game with 15 total rebounds against the Chicago Bulls.

While Gordon is not considered a lockdown defender, he needs to show more effort and willingness to protect the rim on switches or if Jokic is a step slow. Gordon had a massive offensive rebound against the Trail Blazers which lead to a jump ball that ended the game. If these forwards are more consistent on defense and the glass it will allow the Joker to push the ball more and should improve the team’s overall transition offense.

With the injury to Jamal Murray, the guards will obviously be tasked with a bigger role but this talented pairing at the forward positions will have most of the weight on their shoulders. Gordon and Porter were both viewed as tertiary options behind Jokic and Murray, but now Denver will need one of them to step up and be the commanding number two option on offense.

Next. How the injuries to the Nuggets guards opens more doors for the team. dark