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Michael Porter Jr. is ready to help Denver push for a championship

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“I’m trying to do my part to help this team win a championship.”

NBA: Utah Jazz at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Porter Jr. reminded everyone Monday night how important he is to this Denver Nuggets basketball team. In his first game in over four months, Porter scored 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field to go along with seven rebounds.

“This is the first time I’ve really played 5-on-5 against all NBA players. There was a time during this whole break that I got to play with my guys back home and then down in Denver. But it was the first real game, so it was good,” Porter told the media after the game. “Personally for me, the time off was just good — you know I had that ankle injury — it’s good to heal that up and I’m feeling great.”

Porter was showing no effects from that ankle injury and looked like the player we all saw breakout in January. That player was not only draining shots all over the floor but also rebounding at an extremely high rate. Porter showcased those levels to his game again on Monday night.

It was also great to see Porter play so well considering he arrived to the Orlando bubble late. Porter joined the team last week, but said he still felt comfortable on the court because of his ability to stay ready and in shape.

“Nah, I worked really hard while I was in Denver and while I was back home in Missouri. Just trying to stay in shape and stay ready, especially when I knew I was coming late. I wanted to be ready, so that I didn’t have to take days and days to get in shape and get ready. So, I think that work kind of paid off for me because I felt pretty comfortable on the court.”

It was also nice to see how spry and healthy Porter looked on the court. On the glass is where Porter looked most comfortable, and it’s often the part of his game that gets the most overlooked. Everyone knows about his abilities as a scorer, but it’s often missed just how dominating Porter is rebounding the ball, especially on the offensive end of the floor.

When you look back on the stats from earlier this season, it kind of jumps off the screen how Porter was fifth in the team in rebounding with just over four boards (4.1) a game. Porter did all that on just 14 minutes a night, which is a number that has to go up if the Nuggets want to compete for a championship this season.

There is no time like the present, and the Nuggets would be wise to unleash their stud rookie in the Orlando bubble. When the Nuggets let Porter run wild in January, he averaged 12.3 points and 6.9 rebounds in just over 21 minutes per game. During that time, you could see Porter growing in confidence and the Nuggets benefitted as a team because of it.

That same thing could happen in Orlando as long as Porter plays around that 20 minute mark a night. What he brings off the bench is something the Nuggets just don’t have anywhere else. The length, versatility, play making, shot making, rebounding ability, the list goes on and on. All those traits could really help the Nuggets excel in the postseason this year.

The only drawback Porter seems to get is on the defensive end of the floor, which is often a little off base. Sure, he is not the best defender in the world, but the effort he gives you on that end of the floor is enough. Add in the rebounding element and potential to run the break, and I’m okay with a couple defensive errors here and there. As Porter plays more and more, the defensive end of the floor will slow down for him as well.

What you don’t want to be doing at this stage of the season is playing catch up with someone on your roster. For example, if Bol Bol was to play in the final eight games and postseason there would be some growing pains you have to live with.

Denver is probably not in a place where they can live with that as they try and make a run for their first championship. The nice thing about playing Porter is that he’s already far enough along to avoid some of those missteps. Earlier in the season the Nuggets had to bring Porter along slowly, but now with almost 50+ games of NBA experience under his belt, the Nuggets can unleash him.

“I feel like I’m in a great head space. I know we’ve got a lot of good players, but my goal — right now — I’m not coming in here to like just try to blend in with the team, I’m trying to do my part to help this team win a championship and I think I could be a big part of that.”

Porter came into the Orlando bubble focused on basketball and basketball alone. That is a scary thought for opposing teams and if the Nuggets use him right, he might be the missing piece that helps bring the Nuggets their first NBA title.