Michael Porter Jr.’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said that the forward will be cleared for on-court contact within a week via Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN.
He adds that MPJ is eyeing a March return but given the fact that he’ll only just be cleared for full contact reps soon, the timeline is more likely to be late March.
This news comes after the Denver Nuggets were granted a disabled player exception (DPE) in early February for MPJ after his back surgery. At the time, I thought this would guarantee that Porter Jr. will miss the rest of his 2021-22 campaign – I was wrong.
Denver never used the DPE and it expires on 10 Mar. 2022. If they did, things could have been tricky but if MPJ plays this season, the league will rescind the exception.
But despite the good news, should Michael Porter Jr. return this season after having lumbar spine surgery in November 2021? The history of NBA players with back injuries is very murky and with no Jamal Murray after his torn ACL, is it worth bringing Porter Jr. back this soon?
If MPJ is 100 percent healthy then yes, of course, he should come back. But if he isn’t and he re-aggravates his back injury, the Denver Nuggets could go from a fully healthy 2022-23 campaign to another injury-riddled one.
After signing a max rookie extension, worth up to $172.5 million across five years, MPJ played nowhere at a max level in his nine games at the start of the season. He averaged 9.9 points per game while shooting 36 percent from the floor and 21 percent from the 3-point line.
We now know he was nursing a bad back that was injured on a non-contact missed layup against the Houston Rockets.
If Mike is fully healthy though, the upside here is incredible. Denver fans went into the season excited to see if Porter Jr. could extrapolate a flaming hot end to his 2020-21 campaign for a full season.
In 17 games without Murray, MPJ averaged 23.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.5 assists while shooting 56 percent from the floor and 49 percent from the 3-point line. He took the reigns as the scoring option behind Nikola Jokic and excelled.
A fully healthy MPJ coming into a team that has really hit its stride in the second half of the season is not only a playoff lock but a team that could make some serious noise in the playoffs.
Jokic is building on his Most Valuable Player campaign by playing even better and after trying to find a wing player at this season’s trade deadline, MPJ would address positional needs as well as top-end talent.
Mike would slide right back into the starting lineup, pushing Aaron Gordon down to his natural power forward position and bringing Jeff Green off the bench for an added scoring punch and defensive versatility with the second unit.
On top of that, Michael Malone would have an abundance of creators on the roster with Monte Morris, Will Barton, the emergence of Bones Hyland, and then MPJ. This is all before Jamal comes back from his major injury.
The Denver Nuggets gave MPJ a max contract extension because he deserved it. He was playing like a max-level player and Tim Connelly believed that locking up the young core of MPJ, Murray, and Jokic could win an NBA title.
While we might not see the three in action this season, watching two of them on the court at the same time is equally exciting for Nuggets fans as it can be petrifying for the rest of the league.