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Film Friday: Exploring Michael Porter Jr.

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NBA: Playoffs-Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re not familiar with Film Fridays, each Friday, I’ll be looking at some recent Denver Nuggets’ games, lineups or something else from a film aspect to try and bring you a piece of content that you’re not getting somewhere else. Feel free to give any feedback positive or negative in the comments or find me on Twitter.

Now that we’re into the offseason, we’re going to be looking at more long-term topics for our Friday film sessions rather than focusing on topics that are based on in-season play. Today’s topic is none other than everyone’s favorite small forward, Michael Porter Jr. In the 2019-20 season, we caught a glimpse of the type of player that he could be, and we should see his role expanded even more in 2020-21.

During his exciting rookie season, Porter came off the bench to provide a scoring and rebounding boost to the second unit. Per 36 minutes, he averaged 20.4 points and 10.3 rebounds with a slash line of .509/.422/.833. If he had more attempts at the line, he could have had a shot at a 50/40/90 season. The hope was that Porter could put up points in bunches, and he did just that for Denver.

What can he be moving forward? Can he be a legitimate first or second option on the offensive floor? Can he improve his defense enough that he isn’t a liability at the end of games? That’s what we’re here to find out. He has shown flashes of each of those, but he’s never been consistent in either category.

Offense

Porter can score from anywhere. It’s rare that you see a player that can show off that kind of diverse shooting. One of his most impressive stats is the shooting numbers he displays at the rim. On 168 field-goal attempts, Porter registered a 73.8 percent mark. He was making over 70 percent of his shots. Usually, we see that high of a mark reserved for bigs that excel on putback dunks or layups. For Porter, his athleticism at his size just makes him a terror around the rim.

This was one area that Porter was just absolutely dominant in. His 2.6 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes were fourth on the team, and he was only behind bigs like Nikola Jokis, Mason Plumlee and Paul Millsap. If a ball was hanging around above the rim, he was making a play on it more often than not.

Take away the rim. Force him to take a mid-range jump shot. That’s the worst shot in basketball right? Not for Porter, who’s able to rise up over the majority of defenders to knock down shots like this. Lonzo Ball of the New Orleans Pelicans is in an outstanding position, but it doesn’t matter. Porter just rises up and knocks down the shot with ease.

The one area that Porter needs to focus on on the offensive side of the floor is his ball-handling. Porter was largely limited to a spot-up or slasher role during his rookie season, and he needs to be more than that for this team because he’s way too talented to be just a spot-up guy. His flashes of plays like this are what make you think about his ceiling. When he puts his head down to get to the rim, he’s just going to cause a lot of mismatches no matter who is guarding him.

Defense

There were far too many instances of plays like this. Porter gets caught ball watching, and he lets his man blow by him. It’s not anything overly complicated, but he needs to dramatically improve on that next season. Porter doesn’t have outstanding lateral quickness, but he does have the length to get in passing lanes. He needs to put himself in better positions to have success.

Porter also needs to get better at contesting shots. He averaged just 1.0 block per 36 minutes, and he averaged 4.0 fouls per 36, which was fourth on the team among rotation players. For comparison, teammate Gary Harris, who’s arguably the team’s best defender, averaged just 2.3 per 36. Fouls extend possessions, and they give the opposing team’s chances to go to the free-throw line to get easier shots. He just simply can’t do that.

He’s one of the best defensive rebounders, and that needs to continue. His 7.7 defensive boards per 36 was second on the roster behind Jokic. The saying goes that a possession isn’t over until the defense gets a rebound, and Porter excels in that aspect. Despite the other improvements that he needs to make, he can’t afford to take a step back in an area like this.

Overview

The future for Porter is bright. With stars like Jokic and Jamal Murray on either side of him, he will never be fully tasked with carrying the entire offensive workload. Unless he can dramatically improve his ability to drive and handle the ball, that’s for the best right now. His shooting will make him an offensive threat for a long time, but he needs to develop more than just his jump shot.

On the defensive end, his length is a tool he’s not utilizing enough. He has the ability to contest shots without being in close to his assignment. His problem is getting into the jersey of his opponent but getting blown by due to his lack of lateral agility. If he’s unable to improve that area of his game, he needs to be willing to take a step back to give him more room for error in the retreat phase while still being able to contest a jump shot.

For those of you that are still here, remember to leave your feedback in the comments or over on my Twitter, and have a fantastic film-filled Friday.