On the eve of the recent NBA Draft, the Denver Nuggets got an unexpected surprise, when Michael Porter Jr. dropped into their laps with the 14th overall pick.
Heading into the NBA draft, almost nobody expected Porter to drop below the seven selections. Once considered the best prospect in this entire draft class, Porter saw his draft stock fall dramatically amid concerns over his long-term health. Not only did Porter fall out of the top picks, he was in real danger of not even being a lottery pick. That is until Denver saved his night by taking him at number 14 overall. So why was this pick such a steal for the Nuggets?
First, it’s important to understand that the Nuggets have a deep roster. In other words, they have the luxury of waiting for Porter to get back to full health. There is little to no pressure on him to perform right away, which appears to be the perfect fit for both sides. Denver just signed rising star Nikola Jokic to a max contract of five-years and $148 million. On the same day, they also locked up Will Barton for the next four years.
When analyzing the Nuggets’ roster, their most glaring need prior to the draft was at the small forward position. And if Porter is able to overcome his medical constraints, the team’s starting lineup could be very strong: Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr., Paul Millsap, and Nikola Jokic.
But event without Porter in the lineup at the start of the 2018-19 season, the Nuggets should have enough firepower to keep the ship afloat. They closed out last season on a tear, just barely missing out on the final Western Conference playoff spot with a solid 46-36 record.
Porter’s potential emergence as a superstar was well worth the risk for Denver with the 14th pick in the draft. Historically, players selected with the 14th pick don’t typically make much of an impact. They certainly almost never carry the ceiling of Michael Porter Jr., who could become a dominant force in the league. In order to illustrate this point, take a look at the following players were selected 14th overall in the past five NBA drafts:
2017 – Bam Adebayo
2016 – Denzel Valentine
2015 – Cameron Payne
2014 – T. J. Warren
2013 – Shabazz Muhammad
None of these guys have become much of a factor for their respective teams. It goes to show just how rare it is to find a gem like Porter where he was drafted. The Nuggets can now feel good enough about where they stand from a salary cap standpoint. This immediately opens up the team to be aggressive in free agency, in an effort to get this squad to the next level in short order.
In the end, Michael Porter Jr. currently has blemishes that led to his draft day value. But unless his serious back woes prevent him from playing at full strength at some point, this will likely go down as the steal of the 2018 NBA Draft.