Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. medically cleared, hopes to play in Summer League

Kurt Helin

The Denver Nuggets may be a team on the rise — they have young stars in Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray — but after their second-round playoff exit at the hands of Portland, they have some hard questions to answer if they want to stay on that trajectory. The biggest: Do they pick up the $30 million team option on Paul Millsap next season? Let him go and Denver only has about $17 million in cap room, are they sure they can get someone better in free agency at that price?

Another question: How can they add athleticism and depth to a full roster?

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Enter Michael Porter Jr. He fell to them at No. 14 in last year’s draft and is the kind of athlete who can play the three or stretch four that the Nuggets could use off the bench. He also has had two back surgeries in the past two years and did not play a minute this season.

He is cleared and wants to get back on the court at Summer League, Porter told the Nuggets’ official website.

“Yea I can’t wait to get back out there. Nothing will compare to being out there for the first time in a real game. This team has a lot of weapons already, but I think I can be a versatile guy that does a lot of different things on the court and be a shot maker.”

Porter only played five games in college at Missouri following a microdiscectomy, and then needed another surgery last summer that sidelined him last summer. That’s why a guy with top-five talent in the draft slid to 14 (that and concerns about a “diva” attitude).

“It’s been a tough couple of years for me, even going back to Missouri,” Porter Jr. said. “It was really tough, but you just have positive energy and work your hardest. Looking back, it’s great to see how far I’ve come.”

Porter’s going to get his chance starting in Las Vegas. He’s a 6’11” player with handles who can score around the basket or step out on the floor — exactly the kind of guy Denver needs in its rotation. Now Porter needs to prove he can stay healthy and be that guy.

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