When it comes to the 2019 NBA Draft, there was no other polarizing prospect than Michael Porter Jr., the small forward out of Missouri. He was one of the top recruits of the 2017 graduating class, which made sense. The Denver Nuggets are glad he fell to them in the draft.
Looking at players who were taken before him, there was Kevin Knox, who went 9th overall to the New York Knicks, as well as Jerome Robinson, who went 13th to the Los Angeles Clippers. Knox is barely holding on to his roster spot for the Portland Trail Blazers, while Robinson is on a non-guaranteed deal for the Golden State Warriors.
If he’s been such a great player, what caused him to fall down the draft board? The talent was there, but he had a serious injury that really hurt his stock. Many NBA front offices were worried that injuries could nag him throughout his career, so many teams were very cautious when it came to possibly drafting him. When healthy, Porter Jr. is a lethal player.
The Denver Nuggets were willing to take the shot, and it was worthwhile. The only other player in the draft who was better than Porter Jr. was Jalen Brunson, who was drafted 33rd overall. With the value of that selection, the Nuggets deserve an A+, undoubtedly.
Even though he’s proven himself to be a great player, he’s still not at the level of a star. He’s a good starter on a championship team, but he’s not quite at the level many projected when he came out of high school. He’s yet to be an All-Star and didn’t even make an All-Rookie team.
With his talent and considering he’s only 25 years old, there is still time for him to become an All-Star, but it would have to happen soon. What is holding him back from becoming an All-Star caliber player?
For starters, his shot selection is a bit puzzling. His 6’10” frame and fluid jump shot mechanics help him get difficult shots off, but even so, a bad shot is a bad shot at the end of the day. He’s still super efficient, but every game, he tends to take at least one bad shot, whether it be a heavily contested mid-range jumper, or a shot way too early in the shot clock.
His defense, though, has made some strides. He has all the tools to become a great defensive player. Chances are, he’ll never become an All-Defensive type of player, but the Denver Nuggets don’t need that out of him. Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are both great defenders, so they’re set on the perimeter on defense.
The one thing that is really holding him back the most is his playmaking. This season he averaged one assist per game, which is not great. Sure, Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokić are great playmakers in themselves, but that’s different. Porter Jr. does not like to pass, he tends to get into isolation a bit too much.
When it comes to points generated by an assist, Porter Jr. only had 156 points generated. Jeff Green, his teammate last year, had 162 points generated with six fewer games played and a bit under ten minutes less per game.
Let’s look at his strengths now. He’s a great sharpshooter, there’s no denying that. 41.4 percent from beyond the arc last year is amazing, and that’s his lowest mark outside of the 2021-22 season, where he was limited to nine games.
As written previously, he can get his shots off considering his high release point and his height, which is similar to an NBA legend, Kevin Durant. Not saying Michael Porter Jr. will be an MVP and future Hall of Famer, but the comparison isn’t that farfetched. Porter Jr. can get baskets with ease, and efficiently, too.
Some are saying that Porter Jr. should be traded, as he is making a lot of money, but considering how he meshes in with the Nuggets, Denver should not think about shipping him away. He may not ever be an All-Star, but it’s hard to say if the Nuggets could have won the NBA Finals without his presence on the team.
If Michael Porter Jr. wants to become an All-Star, the main thing he’ll need to do is become a better and more willing passer. The Denver Nuggets have many offensive weapons, and isolation is not always the best solution. If he can average around two assists per game, he’ll be that more effective, and could easily become an All-Star.
Safe to say, the Denver Nuggets are super appreciative that Michael Porter Jr. fell to them in the 2018 NBA Draft, and some other teams who picked ahead of them are kicking themselves for letting him slip away.