Ranking the 5 Nuggets starters' contracts from bargain to nightmare

Mar 9, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) reacts
Mar 9, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) reacts / Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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Michael Porter Jr., 5 years $179.3 million: Nightmare

Okay, calling this contract a nightmare is definitely a little harsh, but relative to the rest of the starting lineup it’s the closest thing. MPJ is a fine player overall, a very good shooter, a solid rebounder, a good athlete, and a guy who has stepped up in some big moments. When he gets hot, he can look incredible.

But he’s also very inconsistent, can still be a bit of a liability on the defensive end, and if the shot isn’t falling he can struggle to find other ways to contribute. He’s the only player in the starting lineup who feels like he’s not necessarily locked into the closing lineup.

If he’s having a rough playoff game, I could see Michael Malone opting to finish the game with Peyton Watson or Christian Braun instead of Porter. But still, he’s just 25 years old and as a fifth starter, you could do a lot worse. He’ll likely never live up to the hype he had as a prospect (largely due to injuries), but he’s already proven to be a positive winning player helping contribute to a championship.

If he made less money there would be no issues whatsoever, it’s just the fact that he makes $33.4 million this season, $35.9 million next season, $38.3 million the following season, and then has a non-guaranteed $40.8 million for the 2026-27 season.

That contract is far from a killer, especially with all of the other bargain contracts in the roster, but it is objectively speaking, an overpay. With KCP, Murray, and Gordon all coming up for new deals in the next couple of seasons, the Nuggets may have to look at dumping MPJ and his contract to another team or risking losing one of their four best players to free agency - which would be a bit of a disaster.

So while this contract isn’t truly a nightmare, and Porter Jr. is a good NBA player, the deal could ultimately lead to the Denver front office being forced to split up the core of the team while still in their title window. Now that would be a nightmare. 

Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that and the team can find a way to manage the situation over the next few years, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.