Denver Nuggets: Can Michael Porter Jr. be the next Kevin Durant?

The Denver Nuggets will finally be whole on opening night of the 2022-23 season. One of the players returning from injury, Michael Porter Jr., will have the opportunity to reach his full potential as an elite scorer on a title contender, drawing comparisons to another lethal forward, Kevin Durant.

The Slim Reaper scares defenses to death with his ability to make tough, contested shots using his size, and the former Missouri forward seems to be mirroring a little bit of Durant’s game from the little video footage we’ve seen so far of MPJ’s offseason workouts.

We’ve already seen some NBA situations when a play has broken down, Michael Porter Jr. is elite enough to rise over any defender and get his shot off. When Porter Jr. starts to pour it in from outside, he starts to trust his body and takes it hard to the rim with conviction, he’s unstoppable.

Standing at 6-foot-10, MPJ is the same height as KD and it’s hard not to think about how efficient he could be when at full strength.

At only 24 years old, Porter Jr. is brimming with potential if Denver can find a way to manage a nagging back injury that’s been sapping him of key production. Calvin Booth told Mike Vorkunov, The Athletic that he expects MPJ to be ready on opening night:

“Yeah, I definitely think they’ll both [Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray] be healthy. Especially with the nature of Mike’s injury, and even Jamal, we’ll probably have to be wary about back-to-backs and things of that nature. As we get close to the season Coach Malone and I will sit down with performance staff and map out a plan for what that looks like during the regular season.”

From a team point of view, Nikola Jokic will welcome two players who can both score 20 points a night in MPJ and Jamal Murray. To win in the playoffs, Denver will need to outscore some of the most potent offenses in NBA history and with a healthy MPJ, that’s realistic.

Michael Porter Jr. was sizzling in the 2021 playoffs when Denver knocked out the Portland Trail Blazers. His 26 points in Game 6 (with 22 of them coming in the first quarter) showed he can turn a game on its head and dominate the way Durant is capable of.

Mile High Basketball fans will be hoping got improvement on the defensive end this season after being picked apart for his shortcomings in the playoffs.

His mid-range game doesn’t seem to have left him, either. When Porter Jr. anticipates the play and thinks a few steps ahead of the opposing team, it’s like the game slows down when watching him as a fan.

Nuggets fans are hoping Porter Jr. can rekindle that explosive flame he was able to start when he torched Portland and that kind of production will be needed if MPJ wants to reach the levels the Slim Reaper is currently at.

The Denver Nuggets only got to see Porter Jr. play nine games last season before a back injury and eventual surgery cut his season short.

This will be Porter Jr.’s fifth season in Denver already and by this point in Durant’s career, KD had already secured Rookie of the Year honors, was averaging 30.1 points a game and been named an NBA All-Star as well as All-NBA.

It’s safe to say Porter Jr. has some catching up to do if he wants to match the resume of Durant but once again, the potential looms.

KD was able to pull the Oklahoma City Thunder to the NBA Finals in his fourth season and it was clear that his match of size, agility, and shooting was unguardable at the game’s apex. If Denver can make a Finals run in 2022-23, these same skills will be extremely valuable for MPJ and the Nuggets.

Following KD’s first Finals appearance, he would work his way into the MVP conversation and win the award in the 2013-14 season. While MPJ has a long way to go, when healthy, he has shown flashes to be as lethal as KD. If Mike can make his way into this level of play, Denver’s title chances are much brighter.

Unlike Kevin Durant, Michael Porter Jr. is playing a much different role on the court. While KD had to create a lot of his scoring opportunities, MPJ has the best passing big man in NBA history, Nikola Jokic, finding him for good looks.

We’ve seen Jokic force-feed lesser players for most of his career, the combination of Porter Jr.’s unblockable jump shot and elite frame with Nikola’s vision is a recipe for success.

After the third back surgery of his career, it’s time to move on from the discussion of potential and flashes and for MPJ to put it all together on the court. This is easily the most talented Denver Nuggets roster on paper, now they need to prove it. And on a personal level, MPJ needs to prove that he is as good as advertised.