One of the more interesting aspects of every Nuggets game this season has been the mystery of whether or not Michael Porter Jr. will play. This is a game to game occurrence as some times, Porter sees the floor. Other times, the Nuggets talented rookie sees no minutes at all.
There should be no debate anymore. We are 22 games into the Nuggets 2019-20 season and the answer is clear:
Play the kid.
The Nuggets did not take a chance on a former five-star talent and draft him in the lottery just to put him on the bench. Especially, for a team that has been fighting their rotations all season, the time might finally be here to roll with a player who has shown flashes of brilliance, albeit in limited action.
On the season, Porter has played in 13 games and is averaging just nine minutes per game. Only four times all year has Porter played double-digit minutes — New Orleans (21), Philadelphia (13), Memphis (13), Boston (10) — and Denver has gone 2-2 in those games.
Can Michael Porter Jr get some more minutes?— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) November 6, 2019
3 MINS: 4 PTS (2-2 FG) 1 REB
7 MINS: 3 PTS (1-1 FG) 4 REB
21 MINS: 15 PTS (5-8 FG) 4 REB pic.twitter.com/u9EozpBJRt
One of the Nuggets biggest issues this season is their bench, and part of that is due to the talent on the roster. Denver’s starting unit is set in stone, which means their bench on any given night will consist of Mason Plumlee, Jerami Grant, Monte Morris and one or two of Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Torrey Craig, or Porter.
As of late, the Nuggets have been riding with Hernangomez and Beasley, but that has often changed this season. There was a stretch where Craig and Porter were in the rotation, while Hernangomez and Beasley were on the bench.
It honestly seems like a game of roulette of which players one can expect off the bench on a nightly basis. Now, part of that could be that none of the players listed above have taken advantage of the opportunity Michael Malone has given them.
This is important when it comes to Porter, because even though he has been given limited opportunities, he has often been productive in those chances. Porter is still averaging 4.5 points and 2.7 rebounds per game, which is not bad for a player averaging just nine minutes per game.
When you look back to just a week ago when Porter appeared at the end of the Knicks and Celtics games, he combined to score 15 points in a little over 13 minutes. Porter really shined in the Boston game when he scored nine points and hauled in three rebounds in eight fourth quarter minutes.
A lot of Porter’s playing time this season has come in garbage time or with the bench unit, but when he has seen the floor with Nikola Jokic — like in the Boston game — good things tend to happen.
Fast forward to Tuesday night when Porter was given an opportunity to play against the 76ers. Even though he did not have the best game scoring the ball — six points on 2-of-7 shooting from the field — he still played with high energy and continued to show flashes of just how special he can be.
Porter’s abilities as a scorer are unquestioned, but his defense has been the biggest drawback and is probably the main reason why he has not played as much this season. The Nuggets have grown into a defensive team and that is where Porter has struggled at times to start the year.
Only three times has Porter been a positive in the plus-minus department and he has already posted a plus-minus of minus-9 or worse three times this season. Some of those games did come when Porter was playing shooting guard, which makes his matchup a lot more difficult on the defensive end of the floor.
In games where Porter has played either forward position, he has been much improved as a defender. This is important to monitor moving forward because if the Nuggets continue to use him at either forward spot, it should bode well for his chances to succeed.
No matter what position he is playing, Porter deserves a shot going forward, which is something Malone understands.
Michael Malone was asked how close he is to considering extended run w/ the bench for MPJ:— Brendan Vogt (@BrendanVogt) December 10, 2019
“I consider it every day. I really do. We met as a staff this morning...When you’re 1-4 and your offense is kind of holding you back - you have to have all of your options on the table.”
The Nuggets offense has been holding them back lately and inserting Porter into the rotation could easily fix that. Porter’s scoring and shot making ability add an element to the Nuggets second unit that they have not had all season.
As long as Porter can hold his own defensively, there really is no downside to playing him on a nightly basis. Malone has talked this season about allowing Porter to play through his mistakes. Now is the time for that to come to fruition.