One of the Denver Nuggets’ largest question marks coming into season was how much rookie Michael Porter Jr. would contribute. After sitting out the entire 2018-19 season due of injury, there was plenty of skepticism surrounding the Nuggets 2018 first-round pick.
The Nuggets did a nice job of easing Porter back to start the year, but with increased playing time the past few months, it has come with much success. An uptick in minutes has come in a hurry for Porter, who has played in 25 of the Nuggets’ last 26 games. To compare that to the beginning of the year, Porter did not play in nine of Denver’s first 21 games.
In the 12 games he played, the Nuggets were 9-3, but Porter averaged only 8.6 minutes per game. Porter averaged 4.3 points and 2.4 rebounds per game during that span, which are both numbers that rose exponentially over the last two months. Since December 10th, Porter is averaging just under 10 points (9.3) in 16.1 minutes per game.
If we shorten it down even further to just games in January, Porter has been arguably one of the Nuggets best players. Porter has been on a tear to start 2020, which goes hand in hand with the 20.8 minutes per game he is averaging. Denver has played 14 games in January — Porter sat out one game with a sore back — and the Nuggets are 9-4 when their star rookie plays. Porter is averaging career-highs in points (12.2) and rebounds (6.2) this month, which are both top five marks on the team during that stretch.
The thing that has really stood out with Porter is his ability to crash the offensive glass. Nikola Jokic is the only Nuggets player with more rebounds per game (10.7) in January as Porter has turned into one of the best rebounders on the team.
Porter finished that Golden State game with 18 points, which came during a stretch of seven-straight games where he finished in double-figures. During that same stretch of games, Porter had three double-doubles and came just one rebound shy of another one in the Nuggets last game against Houston.
When you go to point out Porter’s biggest contribution over the past month you can not help but look at his three-point shooting. In January, Porter leads the team with a three-point percentage of 48.8 percent. You read that right... ALMOST 50 PERCENT FROM THREE. And it is not as if Porter is not shooting threes, he is second on the team this month with 1.6 made threes per game on 3.3 attempts.
On the season, Porter is averaging 43.2 percent from distance, which is... you guessed it... first on the team. The Nuggets have struggled to shoot from three at times this season, which is why Porter’s consistency has been so important to their success.
Denver is ranked just 25th in the NBA with 10.4 three-pointers a game. The Nuggets are 20th in the NBA with a three-point percentage of 34.7 percent and Porter is a major reason why that number is so high.
In the #Nuggets last five games, Michael Porter Jr. is shooting a scorching 52.6 percent from three, which leads the team. (Barton III, 43.8%).— Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717) January 21, 2020
Porter is 10-of-19 from distance and has scored double-digits in every one of those games.
by @JoelRushNBA: pic.twitter.com/TdQNhoHyhx
The three-point shooting and rebounding have really stood out with Porter this season, but his defense is something that does not always show up on the stat sheet. Porter is certainly still a work in progress on that end of the floor, but the effort and intensity he is playing with has allowed his defense to improve.
It is evident that Porter’s confidence is growing by the game, which has led to more consistent performances. With the trade deadline just a few weeks away, it is unclear what the Nuggets will do, but maybe their greatest addition is already on the roster.
With increased playing time, Porter has thrived and the Nuggets are having continued success because of it. The Nuggets are plagued with injuries right now and Porter has helped pick up the slack. When the Nuggets finally are back to full strength, it will be even harder for Michael Malone to find minutes for everyone, but one thing has grown clear: Porter needs to be playing at least 20 minutes on a nightly basis going forward. He is too talented not to play.