Denver Nuggets: How will Michael Porter Jr.’s return affect the starters?
In Michael Porter Jr.’s extended absence, other players have evidently had to step up to help Jokic keep the team afloat, and most of that help has come from the guys picking up MPJ’s slack in the frontcourt, most notably veteran forwards Jeff Green and Aaron Gordon.
MPJ’s return will give Jokic another sharpshooter to space the floor and give the big Cevapi some much-needed room to breathe.
We’d expect MPJ to slot in at the three to fill out the starting frontcourt with Jokic and Gordon. Gordon has been solid playing second-fiddle to his center, but he was not brought to the Rockies to be the second option on offense: ideally, he’d be the third or fourth option more often than not.
But he has been putting up 15.0 points a game on 51 percent shooting from the field while playing some decent defence as well. He hasn’t been quite as stingy as the Nuggets would like, however, and one clear positive for the return of Porter Jr. is that he will take some of the scoring burden off of Gordon, who will then be free to expend more energy on the defensive end where he’s more crucial.
Gordon was included on the three most-used lineups that featured MPJ before he went down, which means that Gordon is unlikely to see a drop in minutes, though his usage on the offensive end should go down and one would hope that his prowess on the defensive end should do the opposite.
Jeff Green aka Uncle Jeff is likely the one that will see his role affected the most by MPJ, as the veteran was seeing just 16 minutes a game while the latter was healthy, compared to over 26 minutes per night with MPJ out. Green has started nearly every game with Porter Jr. on the mend, so his return to the bench is all but certain.
That’s a positive for the Nuggets, too, though. For all of Porter Jr.’s deficiencies, he still gives the Nuggets a much higher ceiling and a better chance to win than the 35-year-old Green. Jeff is still a reliable shooter and a solid defender, but MPJ is way too talented to sit behind Green once he’s fully healthy.
Green as more of a veteran mentor who plays fewer minutes but comes in to keep the bench unit in check, maintain good defensive intensity, and knock down a few jimmys from time to time is the ideal scenario here. Not to mention keeping that veteran presence fresh for crucial moments down the stretch doesn’t hurt either, and he can also coach up young forwards like MPJ, Gordon, and youngster Zeke Nnaji as only a man with a decade and a half of NBA experience can do.
Considering Porter Jr.’s main contributions come by scoring the basket, backcourt guys like Will Barton, Austin Rivers, Bryn Forbes, and Bones Hyland will be asked to shoulder a lot less of the scoring load, though I doubt their minutes will be affected much.