Michael Porter Jr. is ready for the big stage, which is good news for the Nuggets
The playoffs are where players have the opportunity to become household names and legitimate stars.
In just his second season, Porter Jr. has already established himself as one of the most promising young talents in the league, averaging 18.8 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 54.3% from the field and 44.1% from 3-point range.
The young forward has already proven to be one of the NBA's deadliest long-range marksmen and one of the league's most efficient scorers. He has posted 42 games this season shooting at least 50% from the field, compared to just 14 games under that threshold.
The hot shooting has even caught the eye of his new teammate Austin Rivers.
"He has greatness in him, everybody sees that," Rivers said. "He's 6-10 with one of the best jump shots in the league."
But his performance of late has not only elevated his own standing in the league. It's also helping keep the Nuggets' hopes of a deep playoff run alive, even after the loss of point guard Jamal Murray to a season-ending torn ACL.
After Murray suffered the injury on April 23 in a 118-97 loss to the Golden State Warriors, the Nuggets were 34-20 and Porter Jr. was averaging 17.3 PPG while shooting 53.4% from the field, 42.1% from 3-point range in 31 minutes per game.
Since Murray went down, the Nuggets are 10-2, and Porter is averaging 24.3 PPG while shooting 57% from the field and 49.5% from 3-point range in 35.3 minutes.
And it's not just the scoring and shooting numbers that stand out for Porter Jr. It's the way he goes about scoring that makes him so difficult to stop.
The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor explained how the Nuggets' prized young forward has become one of the NBA's most lethal offensive weapons.
"Porter needs no space at all to launch 3's off of the bounce. He can fling shots from anywhere … He's a flamethrower from three and he has the body control to contort his body in the air from mid-range."
One might think that a season-ending injury to a team's starting point guard and second-leading scorer would signal the end of title contention for one of the NBA's best teams. Instead, the injury has opened up the opportunity for Porter Jr. to flourish and blossom, and he's quickly made himself a legitimate secondary option to MVP-favorite Nikola Jokic.
And that is exactly what the Nuggets will need in a loaded Western Conference that still features the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, as well as hungry veteran teams such as the LA Clippers and Utah Jazz, as well as the upstart Phoenix Suns.
Each of those teams feature at least one dominant perimeter scorer, which means the Nuggets will need Porter Jr. to come close to matching their output in a potential playoff series.
If Porter Jr. can prove this current streak of hot-shooting isn't an aberration, the Nuggets could potentially find themselves back in the Western Conference Finals for the second consecutive season.
And the second-year forward might be on the cusp of superstar status.
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