Michael Porter Jr.

Michael Porter Jr. Cleared, Expects To Play In Summer League

The Nuggets earned a No. 2 seed and advanced to Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals this season without any contributions from their 2018 first-round pick, Michael Porter Jr., who missed the season due to a back injury. However, Porter said today that he has been medically cleared and expects to suit up for Summer League action in July, as Sean Keeler of The Denver Post details.

“My back doesn’t hurt anymore, and I feel good,” Porter told reporters on Monday. “Really, I want to show that I’m back, I’m feeling good, I’m ready to play, and everything’s good.”

Viewed as a potential top-five talent in the 2018 draft class, Porter slipped to No. 14 overall due to health concerns. He previously underwent surgery to repair herniated disks in his back, and suffered from hip spasms in the spring leading up to the draft.

If they expect Porter to be healthy and ready to go for the 2019/20 season, the Nuggets could have some additional roster flexibility this offseason. Trey Lyles, for instance, is facing restricted free agency, but Denver may not aggressively attempt to re-sign him if the club anticipates Porter being a part of the frontcourt rotation next season.

Still, while this is a positive first step for the former lottery pick, he still a ways to go. The next step will be the Nuggets giving him the green light to participate in Summer League, and seeing how he responds.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Saunders, Layden, Donovan

The Nuggets wrapped up their first playoff series victory in a decade last night, but the franchise would have been well positioned for the future no matter what happened, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

Franchise cornerstone Nikola Jokic is signed through the 2022/23 season, while young star Jamal Murray remains on his rookie contract. Denver has a $30MM option for next year on Paul Millsap and can get nearly $20MM under the cap by declining it. They hold three trade exceptions totaling roughly $33MM that don’t expire until July, and first-round pick Michael Porter Jr. is expected to be ready next year after missing this season because of back surgery.

“What gets me really excited is when I think about what this team has in the next couple of years,” coach Michael Malone said. “I think we have a great window that we’re just beginning with this young group, and Malik (Beasley), Jamal, all of our young guys are a big part of that.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders and GM Scott Layden have been meeting with prospective candidates for the president of basketball operations job and both seem in position to return next season, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Layden, who was rumored to be on thin ice after the Jimmy Butler fiasco, solidified his relationship with owner Glen Taylor after Tom Thibodeau was fired, Krawczynski adds. Sanders is still classified as an interim coach, but he has the full support of star center Karl-Anthony Towns and virtually all the players.
  • Thunder coach Billy Donovan didn’t offer any clues about his future with the franchise during this week’s exit interviews, relays Clay Horning of The Norman Transcript. “For me, it’s just kind of business as usual,” said Donovan, who is coming off his third straight first-round playoff ouster. “(GM) Sam (Presti) and I had a chance to visit a little bit on the plane yesterday on the way back, just talking about the next couple of days and getting together. So, I’m sure he and I will get a chance to sit down as some of this stuff slows down and talk in detail and (I) look forward to that.”
  • Thunder rookie Deonte Burton thinks he benefited greatly from the time he spent in the G League, relays Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman. Burton started the season as a two-way player before signing a multi-year contract in March. “G League is good talent, too,” he said. “Like a lot, a lot more talent than people think.”

Knicks Notes: Porzingis, Lee, Mudiay, Porter

The Knicks have treated the re-signing of Kristaps Porzingis as inevitable, given his pending restricted free agency, but the idea that Porzingis will have no leverage in the process is “bogus,” according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News, who points out that star players can “maneuver themselves out of undesirable situations” even when they’re under contract.

Even if Porzingis doesn’t go the extreme route – accepting his one-year qualifying offer and becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2020 – he could make things difficult on the Knicks by demanding a shorter-term deal (three years with a fourth-year player option) or signing an offer sheet with another club. In that scenario, the Nets would be a team to watch, per Bondy, who writes that GM Sean Marks is high on Porzingis and has a history of pursuing RFAs.

A five-year, maximum-salary deal with the Knicks would allow Porzingis to maximize his earnings and would give him long-term security. However, some people around the NBA believe the Knicks may try to include injury protection language in their offer, says Bondy. That way, if Porzingis has recurring issues related to his ACL recovery, the team would be protected to some extent. The youngster views himself as a max player though, according to Bondy, so New York could risk creating discord by offering less than that.

As we wait to see how Porzingis’ free agency plays out, here’s more on the Knicks:

  • While Enes Kanter has expressed frustration and met with GM Scott Perry about his reduced playing time, another veteran – Courtney Lee – has been taking his diminished role in stride, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Lee has been a DNP-CD in three of the Knicks’ last four games, but is keeping a positive outlook. “I believe in karma, man,” Lee said. “Not going to come in here and be negative. Not going to pout. Not going to be a distraction because you never know when something could happen, then I get out there and I just play miserable and that’s all because I wasn’t being a professional. Just stay positive and stay ready for whatever happens.”
  • In a separate Newsday story, Popper explores how Emmanuel Mudiay‘s confidence has increased since he was dealt from Denver to New York last year.
  • Within a story about Courtney Lee, Marc Berman of The New York Post provides a tidbit related to the 2018 draft, citing sources who say the Knicks passed on Michael Porter Jr. last June in part because they were told he wouldn’t play in 2018/19. However, Berman now hears there’s still a chance Porter will make his NBA debut for the Nuggets later this season.

Injury Updates: Knight, Pistons, Grizzlies, MPJ

Brandon Knight, who hasn’t played in an NBA game since the 2016/17 season, is expected to make his Rockets debut next week, head coach Mike D’Antoni said on Tuesday evening (Twitter link via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com). While Knight isn’t expected to take on a major role for his new team, he could help provide some backcourt depth if James Harden, Chris Paul, or Eric Gordon are banged up, perhaps regaining some trade value if he looks good.

As the Rockets prepare to welcome Knight to the active roster, they’re dealing with another injury to a rotation player. As Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle relays (via Twitter), James Ennis will miss Thursday’s game and will likely remain on the shelf for a few more days due to a right hamstring issue.

As Houston looks to get healthy, here are a few more health updates from around the NBA:

  • A pair of Pistons players, Glenn Robinson III and Henry Ellenson, have been diagnosed with ankle sprains and will be re-evaluated in two weeks, tweets Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Ellenson had only appeared in two games this season, so his absence won’t impact the team significantly, but Robinson has started 16 games so far, averaging 16.0 MPG.
  • The Grizzlies provided updates on four players today, announcing in a press release that Dillon Brooks is expected to return by the end of the month while Chandler Parsons will be re-evaluated in two weeks. Jevon Carter and Yuta Watanabe are set to resume basketball activities within the next week, according to the club.
  • We haven’t heard much this season about Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr., who continues to recover from back surgery. However, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst hears that Porter is “looking impressive” and says Denver has been surprised with how well Porter has been shooting from beyond the arc.
  • Hawks big man Miles Plumlee recently underwent a non-surgical procedure on his left knee and will be re-evaluated on December 18, according to a press release from the team.

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Roberson, Nuggets, Towns

The Trail Blazers didn’t make any major roster moves this offseason, but tweaked their roster slightly by adding players like Seth Curry, Nik Stauskas, and Anfernee Simons. Head of basketball operations Neil Olshey said on Monday that he’s “happy with what we did” over the summer, though he acknowledged that Portland was outbid for six veteran free agents (Twitter link via Joe Freeman of The Oregonian).

In other Trail Blazers news, starting small forward Maurice Harkless continues to recover from arthroscopic left knee surgery, and his availability during training camp is limited (link via Freeman). Harkless said he’ll be involved in practices, but he hasn’t been cleared to play in 5-on-5 games and doesn’t think he’ll be 100% in practices.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Andre Roberson, who ruptured his left patellar tendon last season, provided an update on his recovery timetable on Monday, indicating that he expects to be cleared for contact soon and back to full speed “around December.” Cliff Brunt of The Associated Press has the details, along with the full quotes from the Thunder‘s top defender.
  • The Nuggets aren’t providing any timelines for Isaiah Thomas or Michael Porter Jr. to make their respective debuts with the club, as Matt L. Stephens of The Denver Post writes. The team sounds ready to take a cautious approach with both players. “I do not have a date right now, I’m going to take my sweet time, because I’ve rushed it before and that did not work out for me,” Thomas said of his own status. “We’re not worried about right now. We’re worried about April, worried about the playoffs and me being as healthy as I can going into that stretch. However long it takes, I’m only going to go out on the court when I can produce at a high level.”
  • After officially signing his new maximum-salary extension with the Timberwolves, Karl-Anthony Towns spoke to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic about the deal, which he admits took “a lot longer than I expected” to get done.

Fellow Rookies Pick Ayton, Sexton As RoY Favorites

For the 10th time in 12 years, John Schuhmann of NBA.com got the opportunity to ask the NBA’s incoming crop of rookies a series of questions related to their fellow draftees.

Historically, the NBA rookies haven’t been particularly clairvoyant when it comes to their predictions — they haven’t accurately identified a Rookie of the Year winner since Kevin Durant in 2007/08. Still, it’s an interesting exercise, and one that occasionally results in a dead-on prediction, like when last year’s rookie class named Donovan Mitchell the steal of the 2017 draft.

Here are a few of the most interesting responses from this year’s rookies about the 2018/19 class:

  • Deandre Ayton (Suns) and Collin Sexton (Cavaliers) are viewed as the co-favorites for the Rookie of the Year award this season, with each player earning 18% of the vote. No other rookie had more than a 9% share of the vote.
  • Opinions were a little more divided on which player would have the best long-term NBA career, with Wendell Carter Jr. (Bulls) narrowly earning that title by receiving 13% of the vote. Interestingly, reigning EuroLeague MVP Luka Doncic (Mavericks) wasn’t picked by a single player for this question.
  • No. 48 overall pick Keita Bates-Diop (Timberwolves) was named the steal of the 2018 NBA draft by his fellow rookies, edging out 14th overall pick Michael Porter Jr. (Nuggets) and 18th overall pick Lonnie Walker (Spurs).
  • Trae Young (Hawks) is widely considered the best shooter and play-maker in this year’s class. Jevon Carter (Grizzlies) earned the most votes for best rookie defender, while Zhaire Smith (Sixers) is viewed as the most athletic rookie.
  • Be sure to check out Schuhmann’s full piece for the rest of the rookie survey results.

Michael Porter Jr. Pain-Free After Second Surgery

Nuggets first-rounder Michael Porter Jr. is optimistic after his second back surgery and tells Chris Forsberg of ESPN that he hopes to be ready early in the upcoming season.

“I finally feel, like, good,” Porter said at today’s annual rookie photo shoot, expressing hope that the back issue that robbed him of most of his college career won’t do the same in his first NBA campaign.

“I don’t have a date but I’m hoping to be back for the beginning of the year. Gotta heal up, but I feel great,” he added. “I’m able to get on the court a little bit right now, do some different things. But my rehab has definitely been very conservative. They’re really taking it easy with me, being patient with me.”

Porter injured his back in his first game at Missouri and underwent a microdiscectomy in November to fix one of two bulging disks. He had another spinal surgery last month, and the Nuggets haven’t set any kind of recovery timetable after that procedure.

Porter was among the top college recruits in last year’s class and could have been a high lottery pick if he had remained healthy. However, concerns from the medical staffs of several teams that examined him caused him to slide to Denver at No. 14.

“[Doctors originally] only thought one of [the bulging disks] was symptomatic,” Porter explained. “They went in and fixed that one. Turns out that both were symptomatic. So my first surgery helped a lot but didn’t fix the entire problem. Now that they did this one, I’ve got no pain or anything. I’m excited.”

Michael Porter Jr. Undergoes Second Back Surgery

JULY 19, 1:30pm: Porter’s surgery involved the lumbar spine, and there is no timetable for him to start playing again, tweets Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated.

JULY 18, 9:46pm: Per Steve Aschburner of NBA.comNuggets rookie forward Michael Porter Jr., who was recently selected by Denver with the No. 14 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, had a second surgery on his back last week.

Porter, 19, who ultimately slid to the Nuggets on draft night due to worries about his ongoing back issues, first underwent back surgery in November of last year, which limited him to just three games during his freshman season at Missouri.

The latest procedure, according to Porter’s camp, has led to a greater understanding of Porter’s herniated-disks condition, thereby boosting he and his team’s confidence that he will be able to move on from the injury more quickly and begin his NBA career without having to sit out the 2018-19 season.

Per Aschburner, a spokesperson for the Nuggets declined to speak when reached for comment but did indicate that an update on Porter’s health from the team’s medical staff would be forthcoming.

As we relayed at the beginning of the month, Porter has already signed his rookie scale contract with the Nuggets, which will see him earn a salary of just over $2.41MM in his rookie season.

Michael Porter Jr. Signs Rookie Deal With Nuggets

The Nuggets have signed first-round pick Michael Porter Jr. to a rookie contract, the team announced on its website.

Porter was projected as high as No. 2 in the draft, but concerns about his the condition of his back caused him to plummet all the way to 14th. He suffered a back injury that required surgery in his first college game, then played limited minutes in a pair of SEC and NCAA tournament contests.

Porter will receive $2,411,800 as a rookie and $2,824,500 in his second season. As with all first-rounders, his contract will have two guaranteed seasons, followed by two team option years.

Northwest Rumors: Thunder, Blazers, Wolves, Nuggets

With his free agency just over a week away, the Thunder are keeping the lines of communication open with Paul George, general manager Sam Presti said on Thursday night, per Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman.

“Paul and his representation, we built a relationship built on transparency, trust and collaboration,” Presti said. “I’m happy to say that that’s continued during the period of time that the season ended to now, which I think speaks a great deal about Paul George and just who he is as a guy. It’s just how he operates. Things don’t change.”

Meanwhile, Presti confirmed that the Thunder have also been having conversations with Carmelo Anthony‘s representatives in recent weeks. Although it’s viewed as a virtual lock that Anthony will opt into the final year of his contract, Presti wasn’t willing to make any assumptions on Thursday, as Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes.

“I can’t speak to necessarily what he’s gonna to do with respect to the early termination option, but we have been in touch with him and tried to provide him with as much information as we can so he can make the most informed decision possible,” Presti said. “But it’s pretty well-documented, we have a lot of balls in the air, and it’s still June. It’s not even July. So, we’ll have to see what it is that he chooses to do, and we’ll continue to have conversations from there.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Following Thursday’s draft, Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said the club made an effort to use its No. 24 pick and trade exception to land an “impact rotation guy,” but couldn’t find a suitable deal (Twitter link via Joe Freeman of The Oregonian). “(This draft) wasn’t about existing players,” Olshey said, referring to the fact that no veterans were traded on Thursday. “It was about the draft.”
  • The Timberwolves were active on the phones throughout the draft considering potential trades, but ultimately decided that keeping the 20th and 48th picks was their best option, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Minnesota had spoken to the Pacers, Trail Blazers, and Hawks about moving down from No. 20, but with a run on wings happening, didn’t want to risk losing out on a player like Okogie, Krawczynski notes.
  • Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said the club had “countless” conversations about trading up in the draft, but was thrilled that Michael Porter Jr. fell to No. 14. Connelly added that the Nuggets will be cautious with Porter and won’t play him until the team is confident that he’s “perfectly healthy” (Twitter links via Gina Mizell of The Denver Post).