The never ending wait to watch Michael Porter Jr. suit up in a Nuggets uniform came to a close on Tuesday night in Portland. After sitting out all of last season while recovering from back surgery, Porter was ready to make his debut.
But, as Nuggets fans have grown accustomed too, the wait for Porter was a little longer than expected. Porter finally took the floor with 4:30 left in the third quarter. It did not take long for Porter to score his first bucket as he nailed a step-back jumper just 40 seconds upon checking in.
Michael Porter Jr. has arrived. pic.twitter.com/A601dDgZSi— Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717) October 9, 2019
Porter finished with a stat line of nine points and three rebounds on 4-of-7 shooting in 17 minutes of action. All of Porter’s minutes were consecutive as he did not sub out after checking in, which is a good sign of where he stands health wise.
That has been the biggest question mark surrounding Porter as to whether or not his body will hold up at the NBA level. After suffering a knee sprain this summer that forced him to miss summer league, it was nice to see Porter out there running, jumping, and looking like his old self again.
It has been a long time coming for the Nuggets prized rookie as this was Porter’s first game since March 16, 2018. Even that game, which came in the NCAA Tournament during his lone season at Missouri, Porter was not playing at 100 percent. Having a chance too see what he can do when fully healthy is truly a sight to behold, which Porter put on full display against Portland.
Not only did Porter hit a contested step-back jumper (as shown above), but he also showcased the swagger and confidence that everyone raves about.
M P J #MileHighBasketball pic.twitter.com/iCudpgV5Zv— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) October 9, 2019
After making yet another step-back, Porter had something to say when looking at the Trail Blazers bench. For a guy playing his first game in almost two years to have that type of confidence... it really speaks to how much he a.) believes in himself and b.) is ready to prove the doubters wrong.
Now... it was not the perfect debut for Porter as he did struggle on the defensive end of the floor, but that is natural for a player that has missed as much time as he has. Porter was muscled around for a couple of rebounds and did commit a few silly fouls, but those are things that can be coached and fixed.
One thing you can not teach is an elite scorer’s mentality, which is something Porter undoubtedly possesses. From the moment he touched the basketball on Tuesday night, Porter was looking to score, and his versatile skill set and elite dribble jumper makes him a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses to try and stop.
Porter is going to have to earn his spot though, which was clear in how Michael Malone used his rotations against Portland. Will Barton got the start at small forward, while Torrey Craig was the backup. Those two certainly seem to be the leaders in the clubhouse to start for Denver on opening night.
Both Craig and Barton got the second half off, while Juancho Hernangomez had the opportunity to play with the rest of Denver’s starters. Porter was the fourth small forward off the bench, but that could have less to do with the depth chart and more with it being his first game back, time will tell.
No matter what the reason was as to why it took so long for Porter to take the floor on Tuesday night, the most important thing is that he played. Porter looked healthy and flashed a scoring ability that should give the rest of the NBA visions of Kevin Durant.
Whether it happens on opening night or later in the season, Porter is going to have an impact on this basketball team. Porter gave us a taste of that in his first professional game and if he can build on his electric debut, watch out.