A trade is likely for the Denver Nuggets, as Michael Porter Jr. is ready for heavier minutes and bench roles are unclear halfway into the season.
“Addition by subtraction” is not a phrase Denver Nuggets fans are familiar with. But the concept may not be complete hogwash in this case.
Michael Porter Jr. has shown tantalizing promise as an NBA-ready scorer, both inside and out, fitting beautifully with the bench when utilized as a feature attacker. It’s time for him to play 25 minutes per night and take the reins of the second-unit offense.
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Entering Wednesday’s game against Dallas, he was averaging 12.4 points per game on a red-hot 75 percent shooting over the past five contests. He’s recently compiled outings of 19 and 25 points, respectively.
Porter was limited to just 14 minutes in Denver’s win at Dallas, scoring two points on 1-of-3 shooting.
Impeding his minutes are Juan Hernangomez and Malik Beasley, two players who have all but seen their last days in Nuggets uniforms. And it appears increasingly likely both will be gone by the Feb. 6 trade deadline.
The good news: This six or seven-man bench lineup is on its death bed. It’s the time of year teams begin paring down their rotations. And the Nuggets have some paring ahead of them.
The squad recently stumbled upon its best bench rotation and it proved instrumental in recent road wins at Indiana and Atlanta.
The best utilization is found in a nine-man rotation, featuring a starting lineup of Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic. The four-man bench of Porter, Monte Morris, Jerami Grant and Miles Plumlee still leaves room for a starter to play alongside them at all times. This makes for a great balance of offense, defense and size.
And, if needed, Denver still has a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency defender in Torrey Craig, a tough-nosed stopper whose play is seemingly unaffected by sparatic playing time.
The bottom line: Lace ’em up, Porter. You’ve got more minutes ahead of you.
Unless, of course, something even more enthralling happens.
There’s been chatter of potential mega-moves, acquisitions that could potentially push the Nuggets into legitimate championship contenders, opposed to the dark-horse hopefuls they are today.
Bertans is among the deadliest deep bombers in today’s game, and his 3.8 3-point makes per game ranks second only to James Harden. He’s shooting 43.4 percent from downtown and would be Denver’s best floor spacer in recent history.
And then there’s Jrue Holiday, one of the league’s finest two-way guards. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Denver is a suitor for Holiday (subscription required) as he wants to be in a winning situation.
Built like a linebacker, Holiday averages 19.6 points and 6.5 assists per game and would be a swell fit next to Murray in the backcourt. He’s a lockdown defender, averaging 1.7 steals per game (tied for ninth in the league).
Both Bertans and Holiday are heavy hitters who would immediately increase Denver’s title hopes.
Of course, a big-name acquisition puts one of Denver’s top nine on the outside looking in. Holiday donning a Nuggets uniform may result in Morris’ benching. Or if Bertans comes to town, Porter, Grant or Plumlee may be pine-bound.
Is it worthwhile? Or is maintaining continuity and clearing the way for Porter a better option? This rings as a legitimate question, answered only by the front office factoring potential impact, chance of championship and future development.
As the trade deadline approaches, only one scenario seems unlikely: Denver doing nothing.
Trade winds are brewing across the Rocky Mountains. Where will you be when the squad makes its splashy move?