Denver Nuggets: Why Michael Porter Jr. is a favorite to be the Most Improved Player

Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets celebrates in the third quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Fiserv Forum on 31 Jan. 2020. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets celebrates in the third quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Fiserv Forum on 31 Jan. 2020. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Last year was an impressive sophomore season that saw Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. achieve career highs in almost every statistical category and finish in third place, behind Julius Randle and Jerami Grant respectively, for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award.

Coming into this season, Porter is already looking down at the competition, as DraftKings gives him the shortest odds to win the award with +800 odds. Rounding out the rest of the top five are Kevin Porter Jr. (+900), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (+1200), Zion Williamson (+1400), and Collin Sexton (+1400).

Even at a glance, there’s an argument that Michael Porter Jr. has a more favorable opportunity than the other names on this list to win the award. Let’s dive deeper into why the oddsmakers give the Nuggets forward an edge and how he could walk away as the NBA’s Most Improved Player.

Things didn’t go as Porter, or the Denver Nuggets would’ve liked at the outset of the 2020-21 season. The Missouri product was sentenced to the COVID protocols only four games into the season and it wasn’t until ten games later that he would return to the lineup.

From there, things took off for both parties. For the season, Porter improved his scoring and shooting percentages drastically while the Nuggets were winning games and pushing towards a top-four slot in the Western Conference standings. Aaron Gordon arrived from Orlando at the deadline and the team looked like legitimate title threats; the atmosphere a mile high was buzzing.

Then 12 Apr. 2021 happened and everything changed. The Nuggets and their fans were left reeling in the wake of star point guard Jamal Murray’s torn ACL, but it was Michael Porter Jr. who saw the silver lining.

Before Murray’s devastating injury, Porter was playing at a high level, averaging 17.3 points per game on a .534/.421/.763 shooting line. After the injury, though, Porter’s stats elevated to 23.5 points per game on a .560/.489/.854  line. Not to mention the Gordon trade — a transaction that most certainly benefitted Porter’s spacing and comfortability.

As far as areas for improvement in Porter’s game that might help him get recognized as the most improved and reach the potential everyone in Denver is waiting for, defense and playmaking are the biggest weaknesses.

Porter finished with a defensive rating of 111.9 last season according to, which was good for 371st in the league. Throughout his career, there have been questions about Porter’s lack of focus and energy on the defensive end.

Along with that, Porter averaged only 1.1 assists per game this past season with a 0.91 assist/TO ratio and a 5.2 percent assist percentage per All of this to say, he doesn’t look to pass that often and when he does, it often ends in turnovers and frustration.

With his first full and healthy offseason under his belt though, Michael Porter Jr. might be trending towards major improvement in those departments. In a recent interview with FanSided, Porter discussed the current offseason and how he feels entering his third year:

"“I haven’t really had a fully healthy offseason to really just get it in in the weight room off the court so this is my first offseason where I really feel like ok I’m just going to grind every single day so I feel like my jump from last year to this year is going to be my biggest one yet.”"

All Nuggets fans know the gym-rat attitude that Michael Porter Jr. brings to the team and it looks like sportsbooks such as DraftKings are taking notice as well.

With Murray out for the majority of the 2021-22 season, Porter should expect to see more minutes and an increased role within the team as the number two option behind reigning MVP Nikola Jokic. With ever-growing confidence and plenty of time to work over the summer, it shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise to see Michael Porter Jr. walk away with the Most Improved trophy at season’s end, but hopefully, it leads to much more hardware than that.

Next. Why the Aaron Gordon extension locks in title contention. dark