Nuggets lock in core four with Michael Porter Jr. extension

Jun 1, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. (1) reacts to his three point basket in a double overtime period during game against the Portland Trail Blazers five in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Connelly has pushed his chips all in. News came down Monday afternoon that forward Michael Porter had agreed to a five-year max extension with the Denver Nuggets. The deal will keep MPJ in the Mile High City for the foreseeable future along with fellow cogs Aaron Gordon, Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic.

Gordon was also the recipient of a large contract extension this offseason. Something to the tune of four years and $92 million. Not bad for playing a little over two dozen games with the team last season.

Porter Jr. is an elite offensive player who shot 54.2% from the field and 44.5% from beyond the arc last season for Denver. However, at just 23 years old he is still a couple of seasons away from his true apex and has been putting in a ton of work all offseason.

Sure, all players are “putting in work” during the offseason, but MPJ appears to be laser-focused on leaping from high-upside youngster to a bonafide elite level player, much like his buddy Trae Young in Atlanta.

Denver rolled the dice on Porter Jr. in the 2018 NBA Draft. After numerous teams passed on him, including the Clippers twice, Denver selected the Missouri product with the No. 14 pick. Porter’s rookie season was treated like a redshirt year, as he sat on the sidelines and ramped up his physical health for 2020.

He played in spurts in 2020, but really burst on the scene in the Orlando bubble before affirming himself last season for the Nuggets. He’s a high-upside player who received this deal based on the idea that he continues to progress. There’s no reason to believe Porter won’t continue to improve as he gains more confidence in the league and further develops a rhythm with Jokic. The only concern with Porter is his health. The entire reason he slipped to Denver in the first place was due to concerns about his back, although those concerns have yet to play out in the NBA.

The Nuggets will certainly lean on Porter to open the season while Murray makes his way back from injury. Porter has arguably the highest ceiling of any Nuggets player, Jokic included. If he can tap into his full potential and emerge as a leader, the Nuggets will be one of the fiercest teams in the West for years to come.

Denver’s front office, coaching staff, and player corps are clearly all bought in on the common purist of a championship. Austin Rivers and Will Barton both re-upped in free agency and now with Porter Jr. and Gordon locked up the Nuggets have no choice but to produce. Connelly’s assembled his cast, and now it’s time for the team to go out and there live up to their potential.

There is little to no wiggle room on the roster, and the idea of adding a “big player” is out the window given the finances tied up to the current roster. Denver is on a crash course with the luxury tax, and the team can justify it given the legitimate championship potential of this core, paired with the ability to maintain it.

Denver is just the fourth team in the league to have three players on max contracts with Porter, Murray and Jokic. All three of the players are under the age of 28, and considerably younger than the other trios in Brooklyn (Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving), Los Angeles (LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook) and Golden State (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins). As a result, Denver not only has the chance to contend for a championship this season, but they have the youth to sustain it.

It’s been quite the journey for the Nuggets to get to this point. The core is locked in, and it’s time for the team to go out there and produce. The season starts on Oct. 20 with a road game against the Suns.

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Aniello Piro is our Digital Media Manager. Piro has covered every professional sports team in town at one point or another and has been with Mile High Sports since he was in high school. AP currently covers the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Rockies for Mile High Sports and hosts the 20th and Blake Podcast + the MHS Nuggets podcast. Piro recently graduated from the Metropolitan State University of Denver with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in communication studies. You can follow AP on social media @MediaByAP

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