DENVER — The Nuggets took a risk in drafting Michael Porter Jr. at No. 14 two years ago, but it looks to be paying off in a major way.
Porter Jr. was the No. 1-ranked player coming out of high school and played 18 minutes in college because of a back injury. He sat out his entire rookie season rehabbing and getting stronger and planned on making his NBA debut in July at Summer League. But the night before the team left for Las Vegas, Porter tweaked his knee and was sidelined for the entire tournament.
Porter is now turning the corner, with the 6-foot-10 wing seeing solid minutes early in the season, averaging 5.2 points and shooting 49 percent from the field.
"My back and my knee feel perfect. I'm still getting stronger and with my injury it takes time to fully recover, but I feel great," Porter told Yahoo Sports.
With Will Barton, Paul Millsap, Jerami Grant, Torrey Craig and Porter Jr. all sharing minutes, it can be difficult for a second-year player to carve out his role. But Porter is embracing his role and taking advantage of his opportunities to learn as much as he can each game.
"My role changes from game to game. Whatever coach feels for that night, you never really know, so I just have to stay ready," Porter said. "I'm just kind of finding how I can help the team because right now it's not scoring. I just have to impact the game in other ways — rebounding, playing hard and being in the right spots defensively," Porter said.
On Sunday night, Porter got his first career start and finished with a career-high 19 points in a 120-115 win over the Sacramento Kings. The Nuggets (23-9) are second in the Western Conference behind the Lakers (26-7), and this young group could finally push Denver to a deep run in the playoffs, though questions remain. "Our goal from the beginning has been to win a championship, and that's not going to change. I think anything less than that, we don't necessarily view as a failure, but I think we have that caliber level of team, so that's what we're looking towards."
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