The Denver Nuggets have been forced to walk a tight line between developing Michael Porter Jr. and doing what is best for winning in the short term. It is what limited Porter’s minutes earlier in the season, but lately, Porter has been part of the solution rather than a burden for Michael Malone.

With Denver’s offense stuck in the mud after a slow first quarter against the Charlotte Hornets, Porter began to go to work, scoring in various ways on drives, cuts, and even contested jumpers. It was Porter’s most versatile display of scoring to date, and while he didn’t score as many points as his game versus Indiana, I came away from this game more impressed. He had 19 points, including 17 during a quick burst in the second quarter, showing a poise and confidence that has become much more of a regularity. He also had eight rebounds, 2 steals, and a block, adding more to the complexion of the game than just his scoring.

An underrated aspect of Denver’s season is how much better Porter has been as the season has trudged on. The difference between Porter in his first career minutes versus Porter in Game 40 tonight has been palpable. He’s more explosive, more confident in his abilities, and more confident in his minutes. He has played in 19 straight games for the Nuggets, a big step in his development and great sign for his health long term.

The Nuggets truly found a gem in MPJ. Add that to the list of players Denver has either found or taken a chance on with exceptional results.