It’s been hard trying to get a read on what Michael Porter Jr. would turn into as an NBA player. The former No. 1 recruit in America had a mostly lost year at the University of Missouri due to back surgery, which followed him into the NBA and cost him his first year in the league. For much of this season, Porter has looked like, well, a rookie who hasn’t played much basketball over the last few years because of lingering issues from back surgery.
Porter has struggled to get off the bench until recently, as he hasn’t been a consistent member of the Denver Nuggets’ rotation and he hasn’t been able to do a whole lot when he’s gotten onto the floor. In an era of sports consumption where patience is oftentimes at a minimum, a rusty rookie starting their career averaging 4.2 points in 8.5 minutes per game on 44.4 percent shooting from the field and 33.3 shooting from three isn’t always going to get the benefit of the doubt.
But Porter has began flashing signs over his last few games. His first double-digit scoring outing came on Dec. 28 — he scored 11 points in 19 minutes against Memphis — which he followed up the following night with 19 points in 26 minutes against Sacramento. On Thursday, Porter took his game to another level, scoring a team-high 25 points in 23 minutes off the bench in a 124-116 win over the Indiana Pacers.
— NBA (@NBA) January 3, 2020
The most impressive thing about this outing was how Porter was ruthlessly efficient. Of his 12 shot attempts, 11 went in. He shot 2-for-3 on triples, including a nifty step-back around the 16-second mark of that above clip. While known for having tremendous perimeter skills for a player of his size, Porter didn’t do a ton of work from outside of the paint.
Instead, the 6’10 forward attacked the rim, and as such, he put forth one heck of a shot chart that served as a glimpse into what could make him such a unique offensive player as he gets used to life in the league.
Obviously Porter isn’t going to shoot this effectively all the time, and there are still questions about things like playmaking and defense that he’ll need to answer at some point, but considering where he was just a month ago, this kind of step forward is huge. Even for a team as good as Denver, having this kind of a scoring option off the bench, plus with everything that has happened in the last year or two for Porter, this kind of an outing is one that the locker room would assuredly celebrate. That was made clear when the team took to the locker room and made it a point to celebrate his big evening.
New career-highs in two of the last three games??
YEAAAAAH MIKE!!! pic.twitter.com/HZlBGFrzYS
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) January 3, 2020
Next up for the Nuggets are a pair of road matchups with two of the league’s worst defensive teams, the Wizards on Saturday and the Hawks on Monday. We’ll have to wait and see how Porter looks in those games, but it’s not hard to envision a scenario where he builds on Thursday’s game with two more encouraging performances.