Denver Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. appears in line for more playing time after highly impressive performances in the past three games.
After many frustrating moments this season, it appears Denver Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. has cracked the rotation once and for all, as he’s dominated the past three games with 31.3 points and 13.0 rebounds per contest on 62.2 percent shooting.
Porter’s buried 13-of-22 from 3-point range (59.1 percent) in this stretch, addressing what’s been a significant lack of shooting proficiency on the squad. He’s also posted a plus-26 net rating over these past three games, which leads Nuggets players.
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With Porter, the Nuggets suddenly have a different team than playoff opponents anticipated, as the pre-Orlando squad featured primarily a Nikola Jokic–Jamal Murray attack, small wings and unreliable shooting.
As Murray, Gary Harris, and Will Barton near their respective returns, the natural question shifts to lineups. In light of Porter’s recent performances, it’s clear he must play. But at whose expense?
Let’s examine possible lineup scenarios, as we break down the new-look Nuggets with a heavily-involved Porter:
Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr., Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic
Herein lies the likeliest starting group, as defensive-minded head coach Mike Malone will rest easier with Harris and Millsap steadying the stopping efforts. Jokic and Porter have played exceptionally well together, torching recent defenses, and this lineup allows Porter a significant size advantage against most defenders.
Look for Porter to frequently rim-run, creating a target for Jokic and utilizing the All Star’s smooth passing to accumulate easy baskets. Additionally, Porter will have the height differential to fire his deep attempts and should be a dual-threat at the basket and 3-point line alike.
Murray will also be heavily involved, running frequent pick-and-rolls with Jokic. Porter will serve as a spot-up 3-point threat in these sets, while also crashing the boards as defenses tend to the Jokic and Murray two-man game – he’ll have multiple opportunities to make an impact here.
Harris and Millsap will anchor the defense, while also spacing the floor and scoring via basket cuts. This scenario has Will Barton leaving the starting lineup to lead the bench, which has sorely missed his dribble-drive playmaking this season.
Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr., Jerami Grant, Nikola Jokic
This lineup is exciting, as it’s long, athletic and scores in bunches. This combination features five capable 3-point shooters, a luxury that keeps defenses honest against a) this group’s numerous play-makers (Jokic, Murray and Barton) and b) the mismatch problems this lineup presents (Jokic, Porter and Grant).
Combining this group’s height, shooting and play-making could give the Denver Nuggets a top-3 offense in the league, as no team has five long, agile defenders capable of stopping such a
Look for this lineup to run a typical Nuggets offensive mix, featuring backdoor cuts and the two-man game…but with finer shooting/slashing/finishing options than ever before.
As fun as this combination is, it isn’t exactly a Malone bunch, as Denver’s coach will usually want Millsap, Harris, and/or Craig in for defensive purposes. There also may be a shot scarcity, which is a legitimate concern with Barton and Grant as the fourth and fifth scoring options.
Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr., Nikola Jokic
This would be an effective small-ball lineup, as Porter has the shooting, quickness and athleticism to make a dynamic change-of-pace power forward. Rebounding would actually improve from previous starting lineups, as Porter’s 10.6 boards per 36 minutes is higher than Millsap’s (8.7) and Grant’s (4.8).
If Porter plays the 4-spot, he’d be among the sweetest-shooting, most-agile power forwards in the NBA currently. The modern-day game favors this player archetype, as Porter’s versatility could give opposing power forwards significant problems.
On a good night, Porter would beat a lumbering defender badly to the rim on several occasions, while also draining multiple 3s, causing an opposing timeout and substitution. This lineup could be used to quickly push a slight Denver Nuggets lead to double-digits by capitalizing on Porter’s mismatch.
Defense could be problematic with this group, however, as Porter is a downgrade over Millsap and Grant as a help-side stopper. Porter would also lose his size advantage, which has been helpful when playing the 3-spot.