Porter Jr. was expected to make his long-awaited debut on Friday night as the Summer League Nuggets take on the Phoenix Suns at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Instead, the Nuggets will head to Sin City with the expectation that he will miss the entire event.
The injury comes after two weeks of hype and excitement surrounding his mini-camp workouts with the team. Earlier this week Nuggets Summer League head coach Jordi Fernandez called Porter a “special” talent. Porter’s teammates have all raved about his ability and flashes of brilliance during scrimmages and contact drills. As Northern Colorado’s Jordan Davis put it, “It’s like watching 2K...he’s the real deal.”
The injury prone label
Fair or not, the question of whether Porter Jr. can stay healthy will follow him for quite awhile. Few athletes undergo a back surgery before the age of 21. Porter Jr. has had two. He has a brother who has had two ACL surgeries and two sisters who have each had injury-riddled college careers. So it will likely take several years of good health before MPJ shakes the injury prone label.
That being said, the Nuggets have been the most patient team in the NBA over the last three seasons and they have been consistent about wanting to take things slowly with Porter Jr., a player who they see as a major piece of the team’s future. So if they are correct in assessing the situation as “not serious,” then this is likely just a precautionary measure and another delay but not a detour.
What does this mean for MPJ’s short term future?
In addition to completely deflating the hype around Summer League, this injury also means that Porter Jr. will not step on the court for an official “game” until preseason in October. Summer League provides a nice buffer between the draft and the start of training camp. It’s life a soft opening before the grand opening and provides young rookies with a chance to get used to NBA speed and demonstrate their skill set. For the Nuggets, this was a chance to truly evaluate the type of talent they have in Porter Jr. and others. With this injury, the first time we will see Porter Jr. play will likely be on the road for the preseason where the Nuggets will have a host of other objectives to accomplish and limited playing time to go around.
Why you should still be excited for Summer League
I can’t lie - this takes a lot of wind out of our sail here at Denver Stiffs. But if there is a tiny silver lining it’s that there will be even more focus placed on the other interesting prospects on Denver’s roster.
Jarred Vanderbilt: Long and athletic forward with a great motor, a unique skill set that includes a great handle for a big, terrific vision, and a lot of upside as a backside defender.
Vlatko Cancar: Defensive minded forward with a great feel for the game and an ability to fit into almost any five-man lineup.
Thomas Welsh: A 7-footer with soft touch and a high basketball IQ.
Brandon Goodwin: An explosive guard who has a knack for creating his own shot.
I don’t expect every casual Nuggets fan to get excited about that list, but there’s enough upside between those four guys to keep the die-hards engaged, at least for the first couple of games.