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The Denver Nuggets have kept winning even without two of the best players. Now it sounds like they could get Michael Porter Jr. back for the playoffs.
Two words that will make any NBA fan cringe: back surgery.
Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. underwent back surgery three months ago, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Porter could be cleared for on-court contact as soon as “within the next week” — and he could return to game action for the Nuggets in March, just in time for the stretch run before the playoffs.
This was the 23-year-old Porter’s third back surgery (this one of the lumbar spine variety), and it’s his second since the Nuggets drafted him in 2018.
Porter inked a whopping five-year, $172.5 million contract extension this offseason, a move questioned for not having big injury disclaimers included given Porter’s long history of back issues. (Which caused him to drop to the 14th pick in the draft when he was once considered to be the consensus No. 1.) But Porter earned that extension by elevating his game last year when the Nuggets needed him most.
Over the final month of last season without Jamal Murray (who tore his ACL), MPJ averaged 23.4 points per game along with shooting 55.2 percent from the field and 48.8 percent from 3 on eight 3-point attempts per game. It was a sensational rise after Porter struggled to get a lot of playing time in his rookie season, averaging just 16.4 minutes and 9.3 points per game in 2019-20.
Michael Porter Jr. could be a huge addition for the Nuggets’ playoff run
Without Porter and Murray for essentially this entire season (Porter played only the first nine games), Nikola Jokic has kept the Nuggets in the playoff picture with another insane MVP-level performance of a season, averaging 25.5 points, 13.8 rebounds and 8.0 assists, carrying the Nuggets night in and night out.
The Denver Nuggets are currently tied for 5th/6th place in the Western Conference with the Dallas Mavericks, holding a four-game lead over the Minnesota Timberwolves for the coveted last seed to avoid the play-in.
Even though Porter struggled to begin this season, there is no doubt that MPJ’s insertion back into the lineup will be welcomed with open arms. The timing really could not be better with the final day of the regular season, April 10, fast approaching. (Two words that will get any NBA fan excited: playoff basketball.)
Recent reports also suggest that Jamal Murray could be back in time for the postseason.
With the added firepower of MPJ and Murray, the Nuggets sure feel like a looming dark horse in a weakened Western Conference.