Denver Nuggets Mailbag: Porter Jr.’s role, Bol’s development and more

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer

With the Nuggets dealing with several injuries to key rotation players amidst a tough stretch of the schedule, there were certainly a lot of questions from fans surrounding the team. From Michael Porter Jr.’s recent play to Bol Bol’s development, with a few roster construction questions sprinkled in between.

Let’s cut right to the chase and get into some of your questions!

All opinions and ideas expressed below are our own and do not reflect any views of the Denver Nuggets’ front office and coaching staff.

With or without the injuries that Denver has had to deal with, Porter Jr. has provided a much-needed scoring and rebounding punch off the bench that has led to an increased role. Over the past week or so, Porter Jr. has been Denver’s first substitution in the first quarter and his playing time has mostly stabilized in the low-to-mid-20s.

In the month of January, the 21-year-old forward has averaged nearly 12 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in 20.1 minutes per contest. What’s even more impressive is Porter Jr.’s efficiency, as he has shot 46.2 percent from beyond the arc and owns a 70.3 True Shooting percentage this month.

“He’s impacting the game at a high level, and he’s growing up in front of our eyes,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said, following Denver’s win over the Timberwolves. “And he has so much room for growth, which really excites everybody in Nugget nation. Michael Porter has all the makings of a young star, and there’s so much more room for growth.”

When the rotation is back at full strength, it will be interesting to see who earns the “sixth man” designation, as Jerami Grant was previously the first sub off the bench earlier this season. Perhaps Malone will opt for the elite scoring and rebounding presence in Porter Jr., but at the moment it is clear that Denver’s exciting rookie is the primary option off the bench.

Trade season is always tough for all 30 NBA teams, but it can be particularly difficult for a team like Denver, who have proven to be tough playoff contenders in the Western Conference since the start of the 2018-19 season. Yet while the Nuggets have been near or at the top of the conference over this stretch, the majority of the team’s rotation is made up of players 25 or younger.

The Nuggets boast some of the best depth in the NBA, which has been a key reason the team has been able to survive the plethora of injuries that have occurred in recent weeks. Another key aspect of Denver’s success in recent years is the continuity that the team has enjoyed, especially at the top of the rotation.

Denver’s main starting lineup (Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton III, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokić) includes players that have been members of the team for at least three seasons (counting 2019-20). Meanwhile, many of the Nuggets’ second-unit players have been around the team for multiple years, from Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez to Mason Plumlee and Monte Morris.

Although the transitions and introductions of Porter Jr. and Jerami Grant weren’t seamless at first, both players have enjoyed an increase in playing time in recent weeks which has allowed them to impact the game at an even higher level. The Nuggets stressed the importance of continuity and player development to begin the season, which should continue to be an emphasis down the stretch of the 2019-20 season.

Not much has changed on Bol Bol in recent weeks, as he continues to transition between the G League and NBA as he works on his game and body. Bol has played eight games in the G League this season and has averaged 12 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game in just 19.2 minutes per contest.

Bol has showcased his silky touch and finishing ability around the basket on offense, as he has shot nearly 58 percent from the field. Although he isn’t tasked with shooting many 3-pointers with the Windy City Bulls, the 20-year-old big man has shot 36.4 percent from deep this season.

On defense, Bol’s shot-blocking ability continues to impress. At 7’2” with a 7’8” wingspan, Bol’s presence in the paint is a natural deterrent for opposing guards, while his length and verticality allows him to contest plenty of shots around the rim. Bol will likely get more opportunities to showcase his game and skill set in the G League later this season.

No offense to Plumlee, but I’m not sure he would be a hot selling item! Will Barton III dropped another track this week (“Flooded”) and has continued to showcase his personality off the court through music. In fact, you can listen to him discuss his passion for creating music with Altitude’s Chris Dempsey below.


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