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Suns Opponent Watch: Getting to know Michael Porter, Jr.

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MPJ is proving he can live up to his own expectations as the best player to come out of the 2018 draft. Just how far has he come?

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns will have their hands full when Denver comes to town as one of their newest offensive threats will be ready to cook. Michael Porter, Jr. has continued to display growth and potential this season and know is being permitted to create his own offense as a starter for the Nuggets.

Looking back to his college days a the University of Missouri, where he played only 3 games after being the #2 overall prospect coming out of high school (behind Marvin Bagley), a back injury held him back from being a top-5 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. This made many skeptical of Michael Porter, Jr.’s career potential.

Now the third-year forward for the Denver Nuggets is now a player to fear on the court.

MPJ is slowly moving closer to becoming one of the best players to come out of the 2018 draft. Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic, and Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks are also validating their draft capital in this year’s playoffs, but the emergence of Porter this year shows what he is capable of in becoming the second best player on the Nuggets.

Jamaal Murray, who suffered a torn ACL and had season ending surgery, looked to give the Phoenix Suns a little bit of breathing room when it came to a worrying about a streaky shooter who can take over a game, but did this injury open up more potential for Porter to succeed as the second best player on the Nuggets?

Beginning Monday night, Suns fans will see the 6-10 small forward get hot and, at some times, look unguardable. With off-balance threes and off ball movement, Porter is becoming a very dangerous man on the offensive end.

During the Nuggets’ first round matchup versus the Portland Trailblazers, the stats for MPJ showed his stroke from three-point range continued to stay balanced with a high percentage. Keeping that percentage above 40% and the point total around 19 points per game, the adjustment to the playoffs has been smooth as a starter for the young forward.

His effective field goal percentage in the first round is fourth among qualifying shooters thus far.

Like Devin Booker, the confidence in his game and the ability to perform under pressure is underwhelming to him. He did get a little bit of a taste last season in the bubble playoffs but with more of a bench role. You could really see glimpses of his game evolving in the bubble leading into the playoffs. Calling himself the best player to come out of the 2018 draft, you can already tell that the playoffs would not be a problem.

In the bubble, he was able to average 22 points in 33 minutes per game, shooting better than 42% from three and hauling in 8.6 rebounds. That should have been enough for him to cement himself a valuable starter for the Nuggets heading into the 2021 season, but rumors floated that he should and might be traded after missing 10 games early in the season and recovering slowly after.

The role for MPJ seemed to be to small for him, and the need and want for more looked like it might cause the Nuggets issues on and off the court. I always questioned that the thought of trading MPJ was even spoken about. There always seemed to be an attitude that might get in his way, but learning his role and growing his game from that role was the best thing for him.

Aaron Gordon, who was traded to the Nuggets mid-season, looked to have little impact on MPJ’s game. If anything, the highlights and continued nights of scoring 20 to 25 points a game gave MPJ the mindset that he can play with soon-to-be MVP Nikola Jokic.

I think the way MPJ envisioned himself coming into the NBA was to take over games and become the leader on the offensive end. That could eventually be the case sharing the floor with a great passing big man in Jokic, so to sit tight in a great situation in Denver is the best thing for MPJ.

The recognition for MPJ’s game started mid-season and has been moving upwards since. He is getting the attention he deserves but there is only one problem that MPJ needs to worry about, and that is Mikal Bridges.

The defensive matchup at hand for the Suns would be Bridges, who just got done wrestling with LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers. At times Bridges held his own and Porter might be giving up around 40-50 pounds compared to LeBron.

The moment will not be too big for both Bridges and MPJ, coming out of the same draft together. Offense vs defense will collide at an entertaining rate between the two men on Monday night.