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Michael Porter Jr

(Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

How Michael Porter Jr. Connects to the Nuggets’ Championship Aspirations

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

How Michael Porter Jr. Connects to the Nuggets’ Championship Aspirations

The Denver Nuggets have been one of the most consistent teams in the league throughout the past four years. With Nikola Jokic winning back-to-back MVP awards, the Nuggets title window is still wide open, especially with the personnel returning from injury. Star point guard Jamal Murray, who missed last season recovering from an ACL injury, will be back. Murray is a significant piece for Denver in their hopes of winning an NBA title. However, wing Michael Porter Jr. will be the piece to truly help the Nuggets contend for an NBA Championship.

Porter Jr. has had a bumpy NBA career so far in his young, but promising career. After undergoing his third back surgery last season, Porter will hope to return to form from his 2020-21 season. During that season, he was a spectacular talent for the Nuggets, averaging 19 points per game while pulling down seven rebounds per game and shooting 42 percent from three in his first season as a starter. In terms of efficiency, Porter was as efficient as they come in NBA history. Only Wilt Chamberlain has a higher effective field goal percentage while averaging 19 points per game. Being able to knock down so many tough shots for Denver, Porter will be counted on to do so again in the upcoming year. So how will Porter fit in on the upcoming Nuggets roster?

Denver Nuggets Offseason

Denver had a busy offseason with former general manager Tim Connelly leaving for Minnesota. The Nuggets promoted Calvin Booth to the position and he started making moves right away. Wanting to become a better defensive team, Denver shipped out long-time Nuggets in Will Barton and Monte Morris to Washington for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith. In free agency, the Nuggets added DeAndre Jordan and Bruce Brown, while also bringing back Davon Reed. During the draft, the Nuggets focused on defense once again, selecting Christian Braun from Kansas and Peyton Watson from UCLA. Yes, both Brown and KCP can bring something to the offensive end with their shooting. However, with Barton and Morris no longer in Denver, the offensive hole created makes Porter’s role more important for Denver this upcoming season.

During the 2020-21 season, the Nuggets traded for Aaron Gordon to add alongside the Jokic, Murray, and Porter Jr. core. Through their first eight games altogether, the Nuggets went 7-1 while averaging 112 points per game before Murray went down with his ACL injury. Add in dynamic guard Bones Hyland and the rest of the Nuggets roster for the upcoming season and this should be one of the deepest and best all-around teams in Jokic’s career.

Where Does Porter Fit In?

The 6-foot-10 combo forward will be slotted into the starting lineup to start the season. Porter will be alongside Murray, Jokic, Gordon and Caldwell-Pope. Michael Malone’s offense will run through Jokic and Murray, but Porter will play a key role as that legitimate third option. Throughout his spectacular 2020-21 season, Porter succeeded in knocking down shots from behind the arc while also navigating open lanes to cut to for Jokic to find him near the basket. Opposing defenses already have a hard time guarding Nikola Jokic. If Murray is back to form and returns to running the two-man game with Jokic, it makes the offense harder to stop. However, if Porter returns to form and adds his efficient shooting splits with his large frame, smooth jump shot, and isolation game, it makes Denver almost impossible to defend. 

Denver in the West

Nevertheless, the Western Conference is loaded with multiple title contenders. There are numerous teams that you could make a case for to win the conference. Denver would likely have to face some combination of the Clippers, Mavericks, Suns, Warriors, Timberwolves, and Grizzlies during the playoffs. The Lakers also reman a threat and LeBron James’ mere presence is always an obstacle in the playoffs. However, the West has been stacked for the past couple of years now. Denver has made it to the Conference Finals during their bubble run, and semifinals as well in the past couple of seasons.

The Denver Nuggets will be counting on Michael Porter Jr. to come back and be the guy they gave a five-year $180 million contract to before his latest injury. A lot of people have already forgotten how talented Michael Porter Jr. is. If Porter comes back and knocks down his shots, Denver will be a tough out this year in the NBA Playoffs. However, if MPJ isn’t himself, then their title chances decrease dramatically. Denver is desperately searching for someone to take some stress off of MVP Nikola Jokic.

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