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Denver Nuggets: The mystery that is Michael Porter Jr.

The Denver Nuggets took a chance on Michael Porter Jr., a potential all-or-nothing prospect who could rise to the top of the rookie class or flop into a bust.

As the Denver Nuggets hosted Media Day, an energy overtook Nuggets Nation from the players to the bloggers, even extending to casual fans who could be more invested this season, as an eager Christmas-morning anticipation spread throughout the city.

Sure, the squad was stellar last year. Yet, they could be even better in 2019-20, with Jerami Grant and Michael Porter Jr. plugging frontcourt leaks as the Nuggets compete for top dogs in the talent-laden, but wide-open Western Conference.

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Although Nikola Jokic and a strong starting five lead the way, there are several others who could materialize into greater assets during this 2019-20 campaign. The chief of these is Michael Porter Jr., a highlight in Denver’s guns-a-blazin’, why-not approach to taking calculated offseason risks for potential future greatness.

Porter was among the draft’s elite prospects before injuries struck and now he’s set to begin his redshirt rookie campaign with no reported health issues. He could arguably compete with Zion Williamson for Rookie of the Year honors, assuming flawless health and full utilization by the Nuggets.

His potential is downright scary, as he’s tall, athletic, perhaps already Denver’s top shooter and able to create his own midrange opportunities. At best, he’s a reincarnation of Kevin Durant, currently with less handle, but comparable shooting and athleticism.

But is it possible the hype is overstated, especially factoring the juxtaposition of a win-now mentality versus the game slippage that comes with developing a young, inexperienced player?

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With Denver’s dynamic roster, it’s reasonable to expect the Nuggets to be in win-now territory. There’ll surely be minutes for Porter, even to the point of boxing others out of the rotation, but will this young man — who has so much to learn, especially defensively — start ahead of far more reliable veteran options?

There’s always a growth scale during one’s rookie season and it’s more likely Malone will elect Torrey Craig‘s sound defense in the starting rotation, while finding bench minutes for Porter and riding what’ll likely be some significant scoring spurts. Think Jamal Murray‘s rookie season.

Porter could be an impactful scorer off the pine, playing both the 3 and 4 slots, until Malone yanks him in favor of the starters come crunch time. This would honestly be the best way for Porter to grow while helping the Nuggets with his strengths.

But then again another scenario could arise, one in which his back flares up … or his knee … or his drop-foot, sideways shoulder, upside-down elbow or any other loony-bin injury that may emerge once his bubble-wrap protectant is removed and he begins playing basketball again.

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It happened with Greg Oden, who was chosen before Durant in the 2007 draft and coined the NBA’s next storybook center. Not to spoil the ending for those unfamiliar with Oden’s novel, but the cover was slammed shut at 105 career games and 8.0 points per contest.

Busts do happen, often due to injury, and Porter is far from free and clear.

Here’s some advice on the house; Anyone claiming to know what MPJ will be is lying to you. He’s never touched an NBA court, not even in the Summer League, and the practice buzz is he’s looked great at some points, but terrible at others. So have countless other NBA players, many of whom haven’t panned out.

The intrigue surrounding Porter is a well-kept secret, a mystery to everyone involved, at its best portraying a magical sense of excitement and anticipation.

Porter could be a leading national story, starting for the Nuggets and rendering himself a frequent option on a contending team. Or he may accomplish nothing and be jobless within two years, snakebitten to a point of no return. Hey, he wouldn’t be the first victim.

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As the Nuggets prepare for their 2019-20 season, a campaign that has darkhorse contender written all over it, Michael Porter Jr. lurks in the background. Soon enough, this mystery will reveal itself, leading to possibly the next great pillar in this Nuggets organization.

But then again, who really knows?

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