The Nuggets have been one of the best young teams in the NBA for the last couple of years, highlighted by their conference finals run last season after overcoming two 3–1 deficits. This year looked to be much the same, as they were the fourth seed going into Chase Center to face the Warriors. However, their excellent season seemingly collapsed with their star point guard, Jamal Murray, who came down with a torn ACL.
As I was watching the broadcast show ten minutes of constant slow-motion replays of the injury during the timeout, as a lifelong Derrick Rose fan, I couldn't help but feel sorry for not only Jamal Murray but also the entire Denver Nuggets franchise. I was thinking that if this injury drastically decreased the output and productivity of Murray post-injury, everything that the Nuggets have built on since Carmelo Anthony’s departure in 2010 would be futile.
Disappointed after the game, I checked the box score and recognized a name that had completely skipped my mind while considering what the Nuggets would do without Murray. Michael Porter Jr had himself an incredible night with 24 points on 52% shooting from the field. Now, I have always been a huge Porter fan, and I was utterly shocked when he plummeted to 13th in the 2019 draft, but I did not know that he was capable of this level of efficient output. It only made sense to me that while Murray was out, Porter would get the ball in his hands more, and if he was able to replicate the efficiency that he showed throughout the season so far, he would go berserk.
So far, this prediction has been spot on. In the 44 games this season before Murray was injured, Porter averaged 17.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game on 53.4% from the field and 42.1% from three. In the nine games after Murray was injured, Porter has averaged 25.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game on 56.7% from the field and 50.7% from three. This production is absurd and I don’t think that this is just a coincidence with Murray’s absence, but rather a direct product of it.
It’s no secret that young players need the ball in their hands to develop, and Porter can now take over the scoring and ball-handling duties of Murray while he’s out. Now you may be wondering how Porter’s development will react to Murray returning to the lineup next season. After the injury, Murray surely will not be as effective as he was pre-injury, but he will definitely not fall off the face of the Earth and have his career ended like many Twitter users were quick to predict. Rather, by trusting Porter and Jokic, who will both improve and remain outstanding pieces, Murray will be an excellent third option for one of the best teams in the league.
Therefore, though it is understandably difficult to look at the bright side of such a devastating knee injury, Michael Porter Jr. is a bright young star who is about to shock a lot of people by taking the league by storm.