NUGGETS

MPJ injury could sink Nuggets title aspirations in 2021-‘22

Nov 29, 2021, 11:28 AM
DENVER, CO - JUNE 13: Michael Porter Jr. (1) of the Denver Nuggets walks to the locker room after t...
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The NBA season is barely a month old, and it’s already looking like the 2021-’22 campaign may be a lost one for the Denver Nuggets

Already missing superstar Jamal Murray, who is recovering from an ACL tear suffered this past April, and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, who has been out since Nov. 19 with an injured wrist, the Nuggets received some devastating injury news Monday morning.

Denver’s budding young star Michael Porter Jr. will undergo a surgical procedure on his back Wednesday that will sideline him for the foreseeable future, per ESPN NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski.

Porter’s agent, Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports, tells Wojnarowski his client is expected to make a full recovery and a timetable will reveal itself once the procedure is done.

But having lost the past six games and facing a daunting seven-game road trip, the news is a body blow for a Nuggets team with championship aspirations.

Currently sitting in 10th in the Western Conference standings, Denver will now be without two max players (Porter and Murray) for much of this season.

“He’ll come back when he’s ready,” Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly said earlier this season about Murray’s timetable to return. “Not when we tell him, not a date on the calendar. Only he will know when he’s ready. And we’re at zero rush.”

Perhaps more concerning, however, is this will be the third back procedure Porter has undergone since his freshman season at Missouri in 2017-’18.

At one time a possible first-overall pick, Porter fell to the Nuggets at No. 14 in the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft due to concerns over his back. Later that summer, the team announced Porter had undergone a second back surgery and would miss his entire rookie season.

Porter would make his NBA debut on Oct. 31, 2019, and helped Denver to a Western Conference Finals appearance in the NBA bubble in Orlando during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Then the up-and-coming NBA star made the leap the Nuggets organization had hoped he’d make last season, playing in 61 games (54 starts) and averaging 19.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in 31.3 minutes per game.

Following that impressive breakout season, Porter was rewarded with a five-year, $172 million extension that could become $207 million if he is selected to an All-NBA team.

However, with an ailing back, Porter struggled in his nine appearances this season, averaging just 9.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting just 35.9 percent from the field.

Earlier this month, Porter’s teammate Austin Rivers revealed that the 23-year-old has been playing hurt the entire season.

“He’s 23 years old. He’s got to take care of himself and get himself right physically and that way mentally he can come to the court playing the way that we know he can play,” Rivers said. “He’s playing hurt this whole season. It’s hard to do that. Hopefully, he comes back soon because he’s a huge part of our team.”

Last week, 104.3 The Fan’s Chad Andrus wrote that with Porter’s injury history, the Nuggets should turn to forward Aaron Gordon as insurance.

“In addition to being the elite defender the Nuggets were missing, Gordon has shown he can be a reliable offensive option as he was for most of his seven years in Orlando,” Andrus said.

In 19 games (all starts) this season, Gordon has averaged 13.6 points and 6.2 rebounds in 31.5 minutes per game.

Other candidates to help fill the void left by Porter could include Will Barton, whose 16.3 points per game is second on the roster, and Bones Hyland, who has galvanized Nuggets fans with his play early in his rookie campaign.

Nuggets

Nikola Jokic...
Jerry Schemmel

The NBA schedule makers aren’t doing the Nuggets any favors

With three games in four nights, including another back-to-back to end the stretch, a loss to the Jazz was predictable if not inevitable
2 days ago
Nikola Jokic...
Chad Andrus

The Nuggets and Jazz appear to be on a collision course in the playoffs

On paper, Utah has dominated Denver this season, but a showdown in the first round of the playoffs could have a very different look for the Nuggets
3 days ago
DENVER, COLORADO - OCTOBER 25: Head coach Michael Malone of the Denver Nuggets reacts to a call whi...
Jerry Schemmel

The Nuggets responded in a big way to their head coach calling them out

After a brutal loss in Los Angeles, when they squandered a 25-point lead, Michael Malone ripped into his team, a move that seems to have worked
7 days ago
DENVER, CO - JUNE 13: Michael Porter Jr. (1) of the Denver Nuggets walks to the locker room after t...
Rachel Vigil

The Fan’s Nuggets Fast Break: Will MPJ make a return this season?

DenverFan.com's Rachel Vigil and James Merilatt discuss a possible return for young Nuggets start Michael Porter Jr. this season and more
8 days ago
Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets and Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets celebrate their w...
Jerry Schemmel

The Nuggets have the key ingredient to make a championship run

Throughout NBA history, there has been one constant about championship teams, an element that the Nuggets should have for years to come
9 days ago
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - DECEMBER 08: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets reacts against the New...
Jerry Schemmel

Nikola Jokic is on pace to shatter three all-time Nuggets records

The Joker is on pace to supplant Alex English and Dan Issel atop some impressive lists, but there are too marks that might be beyond his reach
14 days ago
MPJ injury could sink Nuggets title aspirations in 2021-‘22