Denver Nuggets: What does a Michael Porter Jr extension look like?

Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets warms up prior to the start of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings on February 06, 2021. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets warms up prior to the start of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings on February 06, 2021. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets warms up prior to the start of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings on February 06, 2021. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets warms up prior to the start of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings on February 06, 2021. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The first-round playoff series between the Denver Nuggets and the Portland Trail Blazers was an offensive explosion with little-to-no defense being played. One of the players who most benefitted from an up-and-down, shootout was Michael Porter Jr.

Closing out the series in six games, MPJ entered Game 6 with a killer instinct. While it was only his second season on the court and his second playoff appearance, he started the first quarter off scorching hot, scoring 22 points and nailing shot after shot over smaller defenders.

You knew something groovy was happening after his first make. Porter Jr lost his man, Norman Powell, on an off-ball screen before receiving the rock from Facundo Campazzo at the top of the 3-point line. Powell had recovered enough to stick a hand in his face but it didn’t matter as MPJ rose for a fading jump shot the second the ball hit his hands.

Nothing but net.

This quarter was a perfect encapsulation of the MPJ experience. When he’s on, he’s on. When he’s not… well, don’t worry about that.

His shooting and ball-handling skills are unmatched for a human being his size (6-foot-10) and on any given night, he might just be the best player on the court. It’s this combination of skill and size that saw him draw parallels to Kevin Durant on draft night.

We’ve all just seen what a Durant can do in the playoffs and if you missed it, just watch Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Luckily for Denver Nuggets fans, this second coming of KD fell right in their lap after a history of back injuries scared off opposing scouts. He was drafted 14th in the 2018 NBA Draft entering their fourth year, MPJ, and his 2018 classmates are now extension eligible.

In his postseason press conference, Denver Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly says the team will discuss a contract extension with MPJ and his representation.

Mike Singer, The Denver Post adds that the team would like to get a contract extension done sooner rather than later. While MPJ is extension eligible this offseason, he still has one more year left on his rookie-scale deal and the same extension can be signed 12 months later.

Connelly’s eagerness to get a deal done is in line with his previous dealings; giving Jamal Murray a max extension a season before he had to, and maxing out Nikola Jokic without question, among others. It’s part of a conscious effort by this Nuggets head office to ensure players are happy with the team and know they will be taken care of.

As Connelly explains in his postseason press conference:

"“We know how bad [Michael Porter Jr] wants (a title). We want it just as bad. … He’s basketball-obsessed. His work ethic is an A-plus. It’s fun when you see guys like that where he had to battle through adversity and all the injuries. We’ll sit down with Michael’s representation. Our M.O. is when we can, we try to lock guys up and reward them for what they’ve done.“We’ve had a lot of luck getting things done early rather than later, and I think it’s helped with our culture. These guys are colleagues, they’re not assets. The more proactive we can be with trying to build a sustainable roster, the better.”"

Denver Nuggets: What would a Michael Porter Jr extension look like?

The full maximum for MPJ would be a five-year, $168 million extension but Bobby Marks, ESPN believes this is unlikely given MPJ’s health concerns.

Marks outlines several avenues the team can take with Porter’s next contract. The expected outcome is similar to Joel Embiid’s rookie extension with the Philadelphia 76ers, a max contract but with restrictions.

"“The structure of the extension protected Philadelphia in Years 2-5 in case Embiid suffered an injury to his feet or back that caused him to miss significant time. The Nuggets could do the same with Porter’s contract,” Marks writes."

One of the possible restrictions would be an Exhibit 3, or a prior injury exclusion, which would cut down the costs of the contract if he reaggravates a past injury.

Another restriction would be minutes played, requiring MPJ to reach a certain threshold of regular season minutes and scaling his guaranteed contract based on that. There’s also the option for games played instead of minutes.

The next avenue for the Nuggets would be seeing if MPJ wants to take something below the max. While it doesn’t make sense to give up money on his first non-rookie contract, there’s a precedent of players in his position who have done the same. The player could also add bonuses (similar to the aforementioned criteria) which gives Denver more financial flexibility throughout a season and MPJ his eventual max.

And finally, both sides could wait until the 2022 offseason to work out a deal. This would be off-brand for the Nuggets brass as they haven’t done this with their other blue-chip stars.

For those out there thinking “hey, with Jokic and Murray on their respective max contracts, this team gets kinda pricey hey?” Good question, Connelly also foreshadowed the ensuing luxury tax implications with locking down the current roster in the postseason press conference:

"“We have no financial restraints in terms of trying to further develop a championship-level roster.”"

In whichever form it takes, it’s very likely that we see the 22-year-old sign an extension with the Denver Nuggets. He was a finalist for the 2020-21 Most Improved Player award, had a serious case to win it, and can continue growing with Denver’s core.

Denver Nuggets: Michael Porter Jr, the second option

Following the Jamal Murray ACL injury, Michael Porter Jr averaged 22.8 points a night while hitting 55 percent from the floor, 45 percent from 3-point range, and 86 percent from the free throw line. He took on the role as the second option behind Nikola Jokic and excelled.

At such a young age, the former Missouri product has proven he can be a regular season second option, pouring in extremely efficient buckets in the absence of Murray.

Key to mention the regular season there since his production tailed off in the Phoenix Suns series. There was an assortment of issues for Porter Jr in that series though, not only was he trying to shoot over the defensively talented wings in Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder, MPJ tweaked his back in Game 1 of the series.

His minute totals dropped in the second round series with his back injury and he failed to make the same impact that he did in the Portland series. His shooting didn’t eclipse 50 percent and he looked like… well, he looked like he had a back injury.

It should be mentioned that this is also after playing most of the season and having such a short turnaround after reaching the Western Conference Finals in the NBA Bubble the season prior.

Don’t let the Suns series leave a bad taste in your mouth, MPJ just averaged 19 points a night in his second full season in the NBA. He’s a natural scorer who has heaps of room to grow.

Denver Nuggets: How can Michael Porter Jr grow in the future

I just finished watching the latest Disney feature film Cruella, a movie about the evil Cruella de Vil as she tries to break into the London fashion scene. One thing leads to another (and I’m not going to spoil it) but she turns evil, seeking revenge at whatever cost blah, blah, blah.

There’s one point in the film when Cruella speaks about revenge or whatever and says: “Don’t worry, we’re just getting started. There’s (sic) lots more bad things coming… I promise.”

That quote reminds me a bit about Michael Porter Jr’s experience in the second round of the playoffs. Not only was he battling through an injury, the elite guards for the Suns, Chris Paul, and Devin Booker, just waltzed around the court, looking for Porter Jr’s man, before putting him a pick-and-roll and breaking him down.

At the start you’re thinking, damn, they really just ran past him, but don’t worry, he’ll stick with them next play.

The next time down, CP3 saw him drop back and nailed a mid-range jumper. The next time, Bridges catches him with his feet set and gets right to the rim. Rinse and repeat until the four games were finished.

There was no rest for Porter who couldn’t stick with any of the quicker guards. A lot more bad things did indeed come.

With a 6-foot-10 frame and the mobility to play the way he does on the perimeter, there’s reason to believe Michael Porter Jr can grow as a defender. He has only played two seasons and is learning the NBA game.

It doesn’t help that behind him, Jokic isn’t a rim protector. But even then, he has the opportunity to hide on the weakest perimeter player with Aaron Gordon there for larger wings and PJ Dozier or [2021 signee] there for the smaller guards.

But as we saw with Phoenix, the next team in the playoffs with elite guard play will hunt for him on switches. Will he be competent enough to not give up so many free drives or shots? We won’t know until we see it, but it’s a great time to hark back to the initial Connelly quote: “He’s basketball-obsessed. His work ethic is an A-plus.”

He has the tools to be a fine defender and he already knows how to score with the best of them. One of the reasons this team is so comfortable paying their players is because it lets them grow in a Denver jersey.

If an extension does come, we’re going to be seeing a lot more of number one in the Nuggets navy. Let’s hope he continues to grow.

Next. Three ways to replace Jamal Murray's regular season production. dark