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Denver Nuggets Film Friday: Time to earn that paycheck

NBA: Denver Nuggets-Media Day Isaiah J. Downing-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.

It took a little while, but Michael Porter Jr. has gotten his new contract. Now, it’s time to live up to the new deal. Once his new contract kicks in, Porter will be making an average of $34,510,00 million per season over the course of the deal, and he’ll be the highest-paid Nugget until new deals are signed by Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. Through two years, Porter has yet to make an All-Star team, but he appears to be on his way towards one.

In his second full season, Porter averaged 19.0 points per game to go with 7.3 rebounds while shooting 54.2 percent from the field and 44.5 percent from 3-point range. Porter took on an increased role over the course of the season, especially down the stretch when Murray was lost for the final stretch with a torn ACL. He increased his offensive and defensive win shares while taking a significant jump in the offensive box plus/minus department going from 2.4 to 3.9.

In order for Porter to “justify” this deal, he’s going to have to take the next step in a few pretty key areas. He can’t be just a jump shooter, and he can’t be a huge liability on defense. Instead, he needs to step up and show that he can be the consistent third star that this team is paying him to be. With Murray out to start this season, they’re going to need him to be locked in from Day 1.

Shot Selection

Alright, Porter can hit shots from anywhere at any time. We’ve seen him make 3-point shots from 30 feet without even trying, but that doesn’t mean that he has to. Instead, he has to work on taking the extra second to make the right read. On this play, he’s coming up the floor with around 10 seconds on the shot clock. He has a semi-open look with about eight seconds left on the shot clock, but, if he makes just one pass to his left, Facundo Campazzo has a wide-open look. Porter can make the shot he took, but he doesn’t have to take it.

And this is what I’m talking about. Porter drives into the paint, and he’s surrounded by defenders. He thinks about rising up for the shot, but he looks around and finds Austin Rivers along the wing for the wide-open 3-point shot. These are the plays that make the difference at the end of the game because the defense won’t be able to help off of Porter because they’ll know that he could pass to someone else. His willingness to pass helps himself just as much as it helps everyone.

Take Care of the Ball

Porter cut his turnover percentage from 10.6 to 8.1 last season, but he could still stand to work on his overall ball-handling skills. He’s a rather stiff player which causes him to be upright and leaves the ball open for others to get to, and he also drives into areas that are way too congested without a plan. On this play, Porter drives to the basket where there are three different defenders waiting for him, along with his own defender trailing him. There’s no chance for him to get a shot off, and he waits way too long to think about passing the ball which results in the turnover. This one is a lot of the mental aspect of the game needing to step up to the next level.

This is a perfect example of the adjustment he needs to make more often. He drives by his man, and he protects the ball from the help-side defender that takes a swipe at the ball. Once he gets to the cup, he pump fakes to get his man in the air and keeps the ball tight to his body to prevent any flailing limbs from defenders from getting a hand on the ball and knocking it away from him. It’s a similar play with a much different result because of improved action by the ball-handler.

Lock It in on Defense

You’re down three late in the game, and this is the defensive effort we get? Porter is on Joe Ingles, and he just seems like he has no interest in slowing him down. Jokic has improved as a defender, but he still shouldn’t be your primary rim protector. On this play, Porter shows off his lack of lateral mobility by being back on his heels and sliding to his right with no ability to recover and get back. Luckily, Ingles misses the shot, but he never should have had this good of a look in the first place.

Porter gets beat off of the dribble, but it doesn’t matter. He never gives up on the play despite clearly being beat. With his length and athleticism, he can get back into plays where most other guys would be completely out of it. When O.G. Anunoby goes up for the layup, Porter rises up for the block and swats the ball off of the backboard. That type of energy and hustle is what Porter needs to show off on every single play.

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.