Michael Porter Jr. has been one of the breakout stars of the season restart at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
After spending much of his rookie season in and out of Denver's lineup, Porter Jr. averaged 22.0 points and 8.6 rebounds over seven games at the NBA restart, earning Second-Team All Seeding Games honours.
22 PPG- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) August 15, 2020
This is just the start. #MileHighBasketball pic.twitter.com/HZ9bJnLdPb
That got our NBA.com Staff thinking - what is Porter Jr.'s ceiling as a player?
Just so we're clear, we're talking about Porter Jr.'s best-case scenario here, not necessarily realistic expectations. With that in mind, join us as we get lost in the potential of one of the NBA's most exciting prospects.
My initial thought was Kevin Durant, which, I know, is low hanging fruit, but Joe Johnson seems more appropriate to me. It wasn't until Johnson's age 21 season that we saw the potential of him one day becoming an All-Star. While the circumstances are a bit different in Porter Jr.'s age 21 season this year, he's shown flashes of what could become an All-Star laden career.
Iso Joe was a legit three-level scorer, showing the ability to hurt you from behind the arc, midrange and also the low post. A bigger guard who could exploit matchups against a smaller defender and also punish slower defenders with a tight handle.
Porter Jr. offers the same mismatch potential.
The one thing that sticks out the most when looking at Johnson and Porter Jr. side by side is that while both are excellent 3-point shooters. Iso Joe was comfortable taking the majority of his 3-point looks above the break and Porter Jr. has followed that trend early in his career. 93 of Porter Jr.'s 125 3-point attempts this season have been above the break,where he's connecting on 40.9 percent of those shots.
The size, the silky smooth jumper and tight handle are so reminiscent of Joe Johnson, it's not funny. If the Nuggets can get seven All-Star appearances out of Porter Jr., I'd consider that a success.
- Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay)
You never feel great about comparing a 22-year-old rookie to a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but I think there's a chance for MPJ to have a similar impact on the floor at his potential peak.
While Nowitzki has the two-inch height advantage over the 6'10" Porter Jr. - which MPJ evens out with better bounce - both guys have next-level skills for guys their size. We're talking about players with the range, ball-handling and body control of a shooting guard, stuffed within a forward-center's body. It's an innate knack for creating angles and putting the ball in the basket either off the bounce, around the basket or catching and shooting. All MPJ needs to match Dirk's potential as a scorer is his savvy for consistently getting to the foul line.
Watching Dirk shuffle around in the twilight of his career, it was easy to forget the defensive impact he made in his prime. While he wasn't exactly threatening for an All-Defense nod, he did average 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks per game from 2000-01 to 2004-05. While Porter Jr. has got a ways to go before being considered a quality defender, he's shown similar flashes of being disruptive.
Also like Dirk, MPJ doesn't let his shooting guard-like repertoire stop him from being a force on the glass. All that makes it easy to dream when looking at MPJ's numbers per 36 minutes compared to Dirk's age-22 season:
|Dirk Nowitzki (Age 22)||2000-01||14.4||.474||4.5||.387||6.2||.838||8.7||2.0||0.9||1.2||20.6|
|Michael Porter Jr.||2019-20||15.4||.508||5.8||.432||2.7||.807||10.6||1.8||1.0||1.0||20.3|
The talent is clearly there, but it'll be the intangibles that ultimately determine whether Porter Jr can even become an All-Star, let alone sniff Dirk status. The German legend's elite-level leadership, work ethic, clutch factor and winning mentality are lofty heights for any 22-year-old to envision.
The latter is one of many reasons that countless European big men with guard skills have been hyped as Nowitzki's second-coming, with none quite panning out. In MPJ, there's a chance scouts might have slept on branding the real Dirk 2.0, growing right in their own backyard.
- Alex Novick
Tracy McGrady lite
Look, this is coming from someone who worshipped the ground Tracy McGrady walked on growing up. I don't think Porter Jr. will ever reach the heights that McGrady did during his Hall of Fame career, but I do see some T-Mac in his game, especially when it comes to scoring.
Like Carlan and Alex said, Porter Jr. has already shown signs of being a legitimate three-level scorer. His 3-point shooting numbers are ridiculous for a rookie, both from a standstill and on the move. While he hasn't been a particularly efficient midrange scorer so far in his career, he has the handle, size and shooting touch to be a force from there. And with his athleticism, he has the potential to be a dynamic finisher around the rim.
As I wrote earlier in the season, that gives Porter Jr. the tools to be a matchup nightmare, someone who can punish smaller defenders for switching onto him in the post while using his speed and quickness to blow by bigger defenders on the perimeter. Where the McGrady comparison comes directly in play is that there's an ease to Porter Jr. that you don't see in many players. He plays at his own pace and he's silky smooth with the ball in his hands.
When he gets going, he has a "I can get wherever I want, when I want" element to his game.
30 points & 15 boards.- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) August 6, 2020
And he's just getting started 😤#MileHighBasketball pic.twitter.com/1NmJIqKALi
Now, I don't know if Porter will ever be the passer that T-Mac was, but he doesn't really have to become much of a playmaker for others as long as he's on the same team as Nikola Jokic. He can pretty much focus on doing what he does best, which is put up points and grab rebounds - assuming, of course, that he can hold his own defensively, which continues to be the biggest obstacle in him earning Nuggets head coach Mike Malone's full trust.
- Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles)
Alright, even though both Alex and Scott provided disclaimers with their answers, I'm gonna reel things in a little bit.
And before I get too deep into this, Scott can tell you I'm big on Rashard Lewis. People forget how good he was during his prime; just look at his peak numbers:
As for the comparison, let's begin with size. Per Basketball-Reference, Lewis and MPJ both measure at 6-foot-10 and 215 pounds. As big forwards with versatile skillsets, they both have the ability to score at multiple levels.
Shooting? Lewis was ahead of his time as far as I'm concerned, shooting over six triples at a 40 percent clip in the 2004-05 season and seven triples at a 39.7 percent in 2008-09. The significance of those two years? Those were the two seasons in which Lewis earned All-Star nods, with him playing a key role in a Finals run in the latter.
In Porter's two breakout games in the Orlando bubble, he averaged 33.5 points and 13.5 rebounds while shooting 65.7 percent from the field and connecting on 60 percent of his 15 3-point attempts. Realistically, I can see him shooting at a similar clip to Lewis over the course of a season at a similar volume.
Where I think Porter has the advantage is as a ballhandler and rebounder. He'll add two to four more points per game to his average just by attacking the offensive glass and racking up second-chance points. His ballhandling ability will allow him to create more in the open floor and, as Scott mentioned, as long as he's playing off of Nikola Jokic, he'll get some easy opportunities set up for him on a nightly basis.
In Lewis' best season, he averaged 22.4 points and 6.6 boards per game. I can see Porter being a guy that averages around 25 and eight for a few years, picking up a few All-Star nods along the way.
I'm sure that would be a welcome sight for Nuggets fans.
- Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21)
The views here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.