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Roundtable on the Denver Nuggets drafting Michael Porter Jr.

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There’s a lot to feel about this

2018 NBA Draft Combine - Day 1 Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

What word would you use to describe Denver’s pick of Michael Porter Jr. in the first round of the 2018 NBA draft?

Adam Mares: Shocking. Up until this morning, MPJ wasn’t even on the radar to fall to 14. He was rumored to rise to #2 but never rumored to fall to 14 until the morning of the draft so I have to say that I am pretty surprised by this. We at Stiffs didn’t even write a draft profile on him!

Zach Mikash (@ZachMikash): Speechless. I’m not sure how I feel about it at all because it wasn’t even a possibility I was considering.

Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn): Precarious. Denver is on the edge with this pick. Either it will be terrible, or it will be awesome. There is no in between.

Ashley Douglas (@AshleyNBAHoops): Intrigued. After last year’s draft (yes I still remember) I really wasn’t going into this year with many expectations. That said, I’m intrigued with the pick, and I think the Nuggets could really make Porter into a great fit.

Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): Portentous. It could be a minor miracle, or it could doom Denver to back-to-back missed lottery picks. Michael Porter Jr could be a savior, a bust, or anything in between. His floor is as a DNP-injury forever, and his ceiling is a multiple-time All-Star. Which will he be? Your auguring of the situation is as good as mine.

Brendan Vogt (@Bvogt422): Exciting. Who knows if Porter Jr. will stay healthy and move the needle for Denver anytime soon, but they managed to make a huge splash on draft night without trading up. This organization has been lit up in the past for their conservative approach and their seeming passivity, but that’s obviously not a valid criticism here. They rolled the dice.

Evan Fiala (@eefiala): Titillating (h/t Woj). MPJ wasn’t even on my radar as I thought there was no way he would drop that far. But drop he did. There’s a chance that he might never live up to his potential, but his ceiling is soooo high. I’m pumped!

Are you more focused on the risks or more focused on the reward?

Mares: There was a scenario in which Denver traded this pick just to shed Kenneth Faried’s salary. There is also always a risk that the 14th pick turns out to be a below average player who never cracks the rotation. So while MPJ’s injury concerns are very real and make him much more risky of a prospect than usual, I’m more focused on what he could become if he is healthy - a long, athletic, go-to scorer.

Mikash: I’m going to focus on the reward. Every pick is a risk, even more so at pick 14. The Nuggets go with the ultimate risk/reward pick in Porter so if it pans out it completely changes their ceiling.

Blackburn: I’m a little bit nervous about it, so I will say focused on the risks. There are real holes in Porter’s game that he needs to address, and the back being the biggest issue of them all. He’s an excellent talent, but I’m very wary. Denver needs a contributor next season at small forward.

Douglas: There is never reward without risk—in anything. So of course I’m focused on the reward. The top three picks in the drafts run just as much of a risk of being a bust as the last player picked. So, I’m excited to see what Porter can become for Denver once he’s back at full strength. Take Joel Embiid for example. He was injured when Philadelphia drafted him, and unfortunately he was injured far longer than anyone thought, but he turned out to be the best thing that happened to them.

Gross: Reward. Denver has operated out of fear before, and refused to take chances and make moves. They didn’t trade players out of fear of missing the playoffs by a game or two, only to miss the playoffs by a game or two. This was a big swing that could have big consequences, but instead of getting a high-floor / low-ceiling player at a position of need (backup point guard or defensive wing, for example) they were willing to go the home run / strikeout route instead. Hopefully Porter is a home run.

Vogt: Reward. Denver drafted Porter Jr. at 14 — that’s a much different risk than taking him inside the top-8 as many expected one of Cleveland or Chicago to do. Porter might be one of the very best players in this class and that gets harder to pass on with each pick. Worth the gamble at 14.

Fiala: Reward - though knowing that 12 other teams passed on such a high profile prospect is frightening. But this is a player who has true star potential. And he could fit in a role that Denver absolutely needs. If he gets and stays healthy, the Nuggets just opened their championship window by a wide margin.

When do you think MPJ will play his first game in a Denver Nuggets uniform?

Mares: Summer League, 2019. I think there’s at least a chance that he doesn’t play at all this upcoming season. I hope I’m wrong, but with back injuries like this, it might be best to look long term with him.

Mikash: I think we’ll see him in the 2018-2019 season at some point. He played in the tournament and though it appeared he had some set backs I think he’s going to have a chip on his shoulder and do everything he can to get back on the court.

Blackburn: January of 2019. I don’t expect him to be healthy, and Denver should absolutely take things slow with him.

Douglas: I’d also say he’s looking at end of 2018 into the beginning of 2019. There certainly isn’t any need to rush him onto the court and risk injuring him farther. The Nuggets can take the time they need to get him trained and healthy, and perhaps he can debut to give the Nuggets what they need to make the playoffs this season.

Gross: Denver has the depth at the 4 that means they won’t need him even off the bench there - and yet might be so thin at the 3 that he’ll get on the court as soon as he seems able. I don’t think Denver will hold him out the whole year, and that it will be more of a delayes start. Let’s say December 2018.

Vogt: I doubt we see MPJ next season, and that’s ok. That’s what it takes to get a player of his caliber at the low end of the lottery, and we’ve seen multiple top tier talents do just fine after missing their rookie season with injuries.

Fiala: It’s interesting because MPJ himself said he would play at Summer League 2018. He might not have a choice, though. I’d expect Denver to be extremely cautious with him. Early 2019.

What are the odds that he becomes the small forward of the future for the Denver Nuggets?

Mares: 40%. I’ve said for a few years now that Denver’s best chance of building a contender around Nikola Jokic is to have a long, go-to scorer type at small forward. I’m not sure MPJ has the defensive upside but his length and ability to score has the potential to be a great combination.

Mikash: Tough call. I’ll say 50/50 though. If Porter is right and can live up to the hype he gives the Nuggets a huge weapon to use on offense and could be the guy they rely on when offenses inevitably get bottled up in the playoffs.

Blackburn: 60%. It’s more likely than not likely. I think it he has tools that Denver needs to be a championship contender long term. In order to be the long term small forward though, he will have to be a 20 points per game scorer. If not, the advantage he provides in Denver’s current starting lineup is moot. I’m intrigued.

Douglas: That’s a tough prediction to make. I want to be optimistic and say over 50%, but given that he’s already injured it’s hard to say. I would love to see Porter develop his abilities on defense, and become the outside big man with high level defense skills that Gallo almost was. I still miss Gallinari’s ability to draw a big man out from under the rim leaving the opposing defense short handed. I’d love to get that back.

Gross: 70%. There are zero other contenders for that role, and Porter has amazing upside. I consider him at least a Gallo-level player if healthy, and Gallo was fine in that role - and even better if his early back injury had been his only injury. All the more reason for Denver to invest in every specialist and therapist necessary to keep Porter from future recurring injuries.

Vogt: I’d say 35, maybe 40 percent. Kidding, but forever shouts to Earl Boykins. This is a tough one because if he was healthy the odds would be extremely favorable. As Gordon points out, there are virtually zero other candidates here. But we can’t let our excitement blind us from the fact that back injuries are terrifying, especially for 19-year olds. There is a real chance this never works out. Still worth it though.

Fiala: I’m going to go with 75%. It’s not every day a talent like Porter Jr. literally falls into a team’s lap. The Nuggets need a SF, so my guess is they do all they can to make it happen.