After nearly two years of patiently waiting, fans of the Denver Nuggets are finally able to see what the future looks like. Speaking of patience, Michael Porter Jr. himself has had to show his fair share prior to the NBA bubble. However, after some incredibly efficient performances in Orlando, it seems fair to say that the waiting is over.
With injuries keeping key players Gary Harris and Will Barton on the side line, the stage was set for the 6’10 forward to show the world what he can do. An opportunity he knew would be pivotal in cementing a more prevalent role in the Nuggets rotation.
Head coach Michael Malone gave him his first chance against the Miami Heat in Denver’s opening game of the bubble. Unfortunately, shaky defence and inefficient shooting meant he only saw the floor for 24 minutes.
What followed? Some strong words from Malone, calling out his players, Porter Jr being one of them. After some exchanged text messages, the Nuggets star rookie had a point to prove as they rolled in to their next game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
A star is born. 37 points on a breath taking 12 of 16 shooting, including going 4 of 6 from deep. Pair that with 12 rebounds and an incredibly hard working defensive display and not only do you have a lot of happy fans, you also have a head coach with some decisions to make. Decisions that could impact Porter Jr’s own career and the entire dynamic of the team.
Before the NBA world could catch it’s breath, he was at it again. He gave the Spurs 30 points and 15 rebounds in what was another efficient shooting display. These two special performances, paired with solid outings against Portland, Utah and the LA twins, landed MPJ a spot in the NBA’s all bubble second team.
Before the Denver Nuggets can stop to think about future rotations and the minutes they give their players going forward, they have the playoffs. It’s safe to say that for what remains of the season, that starting small forward spot belongs to MPJ.
His first playoff minutes against the Jazz were interesting. The first quarter saw him pull up and drain a triple in transition. Quite some confidence for your first shot in the playoffs. However, further down the line, the Utah Jazz tactically targeted him on the defensive end, causing him to spend a lot of time hugging on to Rudy Gobert. Malone soon pulled him out of the game, then in overtime, opted for the more defensive minded PJ Dozier.
These tactics worked as Denver dominated in OT, taking a 1-0 lead in the series against the rival Jazz. As for MPJ, I’ve got a feeling there will be a lot of talk about how to help him on the ball screens in the Nuggets film session. If he can remain steady defensively, then it should allow his naturally superb offensive game to flourish.
A 6’10 pure shooter with a lean build that moves well. A young player that rebounds the ball at a high rate and isn’t afraid to pull up in transition. Remind you of anyone?
Going forward, there’s no reason why Michael Porter Junior doesn’t hold on to that starting role. We know Michael Malone won’t accept defensive laziness, however it seems that those days are behind him, and the best of Michael Porter Junior is most certainly to come.