Denver Nuggets: Realistic expectations for Michael Porter Jr. next season
Michael Porter Jr. is entering the 2022-23 season at full strength. After sitting out essentially an entire season following back surgery, the Denver Nuggets are whole, but what can they expect from the young wing?
It seems like a very long time ago, but just before the 2021-22 NBA season, Porter Jr. was one of the favorites to win the Most Improved Player award.
In 61 games the season prior, MPJ was awarded a starting spot by Michael Malone and he rewarded this promotion with an efficient 19 points per game. While shooting 54 percent from the floor, 46 percent from the 3-point line, and 79 percent from the free throw line, MPJ also pulled down 7.3 rebounds.
Michael Porter Jr. was also essential in the Nuggets’ first-round win against the Portland Trail Blazers with his combination of shooting and size proving too much, despite missing Jamal Murray. He was eventually picked apart by a veteran-laden Phoenix Suns team but it didn’t matter, MPJ was realizing his potential and he was here.
Before the 2021-22 season, some were wondering if Porter Jr. could handle a heavy scoring load for an entire season. Yes, he could put the ball in the basket, but after averaging more turnovers than assists (1.3 to 1.1), could the Denver Nuggets trust him with the ball in his hands?
Unfortunately, we never found out. After underperforming in nine games, MPJ was pulled from the lineup with a back injury and had to watch the rest of the season from the sidelines.
Fast-forward to today and MPJ is hoping to build on the same flashes that made him a Most Improved Player candidate, but now he’ll be alongside a fully healthy team with title aspirations.
Calvin Booth has wasted no time in shaping this Denver Nuggets roster to how he sees it: shooting and defense around the big three of Nikola Jokic, MPJ, and Murray. Instead of leaning on other ball-dominant players like Monte Morris and Will Barton, one of the big three will be on the court at all times and they’re the focal point.
While the process makes sense, the two injured stars have a lot to prove when they return on opening night. So what can we realistically expect from Michael Porter Jr.?