Blame AAU basketball, blame the one-and-done generation, blame whatever you want, but what cannot be argued is that there is an international wave taking over the NBA. Increasingly it seems like the best and most influential players in the NBA are from countries and regions outside of the U.S.
Far-Fetched Friday: Michael Porter Jr. Will Be the Breakout Star of the Playoffs
By: Khaqan Khan
Michael Porter Jr. quickly got a negative reputation as a 'me-first' player in his first NBA season, but he's quickly worked to shed that notion and finds himself on his way to being the next all-around superstar. Coming out of high school, Porter Jr. was the number 1 prospect in the country, and it's not hard to understand why. At 6'10", Porter Jr. possesses one of the most fluid and flexible jump shots in the NBA. Unfortunately, a back injury caused him to miss nearly his entire freshman year at Mizzou and spend the first year in the NBA rehabbing after falling drastically to number 14.
Welcome back to Far-Fetched Friday, where every Friday we give you a bold prediction that we believe will come to fruition. This Friday, we look at the potential future of the NBA.
When his rookie season finally came around a year after he was drafted, Porter Jr wasted no time showing flashes of his scoring ability. Coming off the bench in limited minutes, Porter Jr was posting efficient scoring numbers. However, due to a lack of trust from his head coach Mike Malone for his defense and shot selection, Porter Jr. didn't get the opportunity he thought he deserved. But he stayed with it.
Now when you hear his coaches and teammates talk about him, they're quick to remind you how young he is, but also how much work he puts in. Newly signed Vet Austin Rivers is confused by Porter's reputation.
"He's a kid, man. He's innocent, he wants to learn, he has greatness in him."
His head coach, who many speculated Porter had a tenuous relationship with, has given Porter high praise about his improvement, especially defensively.
"I have to give Michael a ton of credit because even before Aaron Gordon got here, Michael has shown tremendous growth on defense." Malone continued to add, "He's grown up. Michael cares, and if you care about that end of the floor, you're going to grow. And I think Michael has been getting steady minutes. Thirty-five plus every night. He is settling in, feeling comfortable and confident, and I just love and take a lot of pride in seeing him grow and care as much as he has."
Michael Porter is still maturing and still learning the game. It's easy to forget he is only 22 years old.
Porter has put in the work to improve every aspect of his game. Now opportunity meets preparation. Following Jamal Murray's unfortunate injury, Porter Jr. was thrust into a bigger role.
Porter Jr's usage rate went from 20.9 with Murray to 23.4 without him.
Before April 14th, Porter was at 17 PPG on 53% shooting and 42% on 5.6 threes a game. Since April 14th, Porter Jr has been averaging 25 PPG on 57% shooting, taking eight threes a game and hitting half of them. He's shooting over smaller players, exploiting mismatches, and he's playing off MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokic by cutting to get easy baskets.
Porter Jr's jump shot allows him to rise over any defender at any angle and range on the floor. That threat opens up driving lanes for him to use his length and athleticism for creative finishes. He's even beginning to draw more fouls. Though a subtle increase, 2.1 to 2.8 fouls per game shows a positive trajectory. However, Porter Jr still has a long way to go in becoming a complete player, and he knows it.
"I think from this season to last season, I've definitely improved in every area of my game. I think going forward, one thing I really wanna get better at is just ball-handling and playmaking so that when guys like Will Barton or Jamal Murray go out, the ball can be in my hands. I can look to get my teammates involved by drawing two and finding my teammates."
With all these components, no one should be surprised if Michael Porter Jr. establishes himself as the next star to be after these playoffs are done.
The Nuggets need his shot creation, and with Murray out, they need to trust their young star. This might not be as big of a leap as Murray last year in the playoffs, but no matter where the Denver Nuggets end up, they should be excited for the future with the young core of Nikola Jokic (26), Jamal Murray (24), Aaron Gordon (25), and the budding Michael Porter Jr (22).
Look for Porter Jr. to shoot over any defender thrown his way and help the Nuggets make a run in the playoffs.
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