Did the Denver Nuggets rush into a Michael Porter Jr. extension?

Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center on 20 Oct. 2021. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center on 20 Oct. 2021. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /

Michael Porter Jr. has undergone season-ending surgery and the Denver Nuggets are scrambling to find replacements for their third-leading scorer. Is it possible that the team rushed into an extension?

When MPJ signed his five-year, maximum extension just before the start of the 2021-22 NBA season, it seemed like a textbook Tim Connelly move. Since taking the reigns as the lead decision-maker, Connelly has done an excellent job as the leader of a small market team; he drafted well and he made sure his guys got paid.

Extensions to core players have been early and lucrative. It’s a way to maintain players’ loyalty, keep talent in house, and let agents know that if their player ends up in Colorado, they’re going to be looked after.

This extension, despite only being a starting-caliber wing for one season, was similar to others. Yes, MPJ had his injury issues in the past, but it’s a risk the team must take to keep elite talent and at 23-years-old, Porter Jr. can continue growing with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.

But recently, Marc Stein, via his Substack, suggests that the enthusiasm of a Michael Porter Jr. extension might have come from ownership, not the basketball minds.

Stein says that the Denver Nuggets could have just waited until restricted free agency in 2022 before signing MPJ to an extension. Yes, going that route comes with the added worry of pissing off the player, but after only one real season and the back issues, it wouldn’t have been baseless.

"“Yet I’d likewise suspect that Porter-related pressure on Nuggets executives is not what it appears from the outside because Porter’s biggest fan, league sources say, is Stan Kroenke. Owner and player share Missouri as an alma mater and Kroenke — although he relinquished day-to-day governance of the Nuggets to son Josh to adhere to the NFL’s rules about cross-ownership of various sports franchises — is said to have been Porter’s No. 1 backer in the organization since the day Denver drafted him.”"

The article goes on to say that even in Michael Porter Jr.’s first full season, Kroenke was pushing for him to play more.

Is this a classic case of ownership meddling or are we reading too much into this?

The best organizations in the league, and across the professional sports world, understand the difference between ownership and the front office. There are basketball minds hired to put the best talent on the court and then there is ownership who try and put together the best organization as a whole.

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The extension is in line with Connelly’s moves in the past, but would he really (or any other team for that matter) really want to pay a player with such a scary injury history?

MPJ could’ve signed the exact same extension a year later. If he hadn’t inked this maximum extension before the season, we’d be looking at a player with two missed seasons, one rookie season, and one borderline All-Star season. Is that a max contract player?

Stein believes there is some form of meddling with the deal:

"“Porter’s ability to command a max deal after 116 NBA games and just 71 starts makes much more sense when the Kroenke/Missouri variable is plugged in.”"

Are the Denver Nuggets worse off for it? Even if ownership wasn’t a factor, there would be interest in Michael Porter Jr. this offseason, signing him to his max before the season eliminates any possibility of him departing in free agency.

It’s likely the move that Connelly would’ve done as well. This new report is something to monitor moving forward.

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