The Denver Nuggets figure to be one of the many teams in the Western Conference battling for a playoff spot, and they hope this season will go better than the last when they found themselves as the odd team out, losing a play-in game with the Timberwolves on the last night of the season.
One of the biggest questions in Denver is what the Nuggets will do on the wing, where they don’t really have any traditional small forwards. They have a number of combo guards and power forwards, but they’ll have to either play small or big at pretty much all times on the wing. The Nuggets used the draft to address that need in the future, but considering Michael Porter Jr. — who also isn’t a traditional small forward but instead is a combo forward at 6’10 — has had a second back surgery in nine months, no one is exactly sure when he’ll be able to get on the court and help.
There was consideration that Porter Jr. could miss the entire season, but he’s maintained throughout that he wants to play at some point during his rookie year. At the rookie photo shoot on Sunday, Porter Jr. spoke with Chris Forsberg of ESPN and explained his goals for this season and his health moving forward.
As Porter Jr. tells it, he’s completely pain free after his second back surgery and has been able to do some things on the basketball court. He also says his plan is to try and be ready for the start of the season, but that Denver is (wisely) being conservative with his rehab.
“I don’t have a date but I’m hoping to be back for the beginning of the year. Gotta heal up, but I feel great,” Porter said. “I’m able to get on the court a little bit right now, do some different things. But my rehab has definitely been very conservative. They’re really taking it easy with me, being patient with me.”
According to Porter, the second surgery was to repair a second bulging disc in his back that doctors didn’t originally believe was “symptomatic,” which left him with lingering pain. Now, he says all is well and it’s just about getting himself right to be able to compete.
The start of the season seems a bit ambitious, especially considering how the Nuggets have talked about Porter and how they will remain cautious with him moving forward. Still, if he’s able to return at any time this season and be completely healthy, his presence on the wing would be a welcome addition for Denver, even if in a reserve capacity to provide a scoring punch off the bench.