Here’s what Nuggets president Josh Kroenke had to tell Spears about landing Porter Jr. with the fourteenth pick, and the status of his health:
“Michael is an incredible talent and we were surprised to see him available at No. 14,” Kroenke told The Undefeated via text message. “We know the risks associated with him due to his recent back injury at Missouri, but he’s an incredibly hard worker, is an outstanding young man and we think he will fit in well with our up-and-coming group in Denver.”
With the doubt about Porter Jr.’s playing status for the 2018-2019 already being prevalent, it seems very likely that he won’t play for the Nuggets summer league team in July. Porter Jr. was also spotted walking with a noticeable slight limp ahead of his arrival to his post-draft press conference.
Already, the Nuggets have preached patient with Porter Jr., and with the collection of talent on the roster and their performance last season, it’s fair to say that being patient is the best move for the Nuggets as an organization.
The Nuggets missed the playoffs by one game last year, and more than likely would’ve made the playoffs had power forward Paul Millsap been healthy for most of the season, but a wrist injury cost the four-time NBA All-Star over 30 games.
That means head coach Michael Malone will likely trot out a starting lineup on opening night that will feature Jamal Murray and Gary Harris in the backcourt, and Wilson Chandler, Millsap, and Nikola Jokic in the frontcourt. The Nuggets hold a team option in Jokic’s contract that they will have to exercise by July 1, but that will be an easy decision for Denver brass to make, as that option will be declined so they can ink the star center to a mega-extension.
In College for the Missouri Tigers, Porter Jr. was limited to just three games because of his back injury, and only one of those games played was during the regular season. Porter Jr. came back for Missouri in the ACC Tournament, but it was evident right from the jump that he was too rusty and struggle with his shot. He shot just 5-17 from the field against the Georgia Bulldogs in his first tournament game, and then 4-12 against the Florida State Seminoles in the next.
Taking a year off to get fully healthy proved very effective for Philadelphia 76ers stud Ben Simmons, as he was drafted in 2016 and didn’t end up playing the 2016-2017 season. He came back in 2017-2018, and will likely be crowned the NBA’s Rookie of the Year over Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell.
Porter Jr. averaged 10.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.0 steals per game while shooting 33% from the field and 30% from three-point range for Missouri. He was the number two recruit in the nation out of high school in 2017 with only Marvin Bagley III ranked ahead of him, per ESPN.
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