3 Risks Denver Nuggets took by handing Michael Porter Jr. a max contract

Denver Nuggets v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Six
Denver Nuggets v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Six

In a move that seemed to shock a majority of the NBA, Michael Porter Jr. and the Denver Nuggets recently agreed to a five-year, $207-million extension. After being the number one prospect for years in high school, Porter suffered a substantial back injury before reaching the NCAA. Subsequently, he attended the University of Missouri and played a total of two minutes before another being plagued with another back injury.

Those concerns led to the talented wing falling to the Denver Nuggets at #14 in the 2018 NBA Draft. Porter recently mentioned on The Old Man & The Three podcast with JJ Redick that at the time, he was touted to potentially go in the top two throughout the predraft process. That was until a Los Angeles Clippers doctor said he thought there was a chance Michael Porter Jr. would never play basketball again in his life.

The Denver Nuggets, known for their willingness to take risks in the middle of the first round, were not discouraged by that. Today, Porter is viewed as one of the steals from that draft class and posted impressive numbers in just his second season with playing time.

In 2020-21, Michael Porter Jr. averaged 19.0 points and 7.3 rebounds for the Denver Nuggets while converting 54.2 percent of his attempts from the field and an absurd 44.5 percent of his 6.3 attempts from three.

Still, $200-million makes Porter one of the highest paid players in the NBA, which has the potential to go sour for the Denver Nuggets. Here are three risks the Denver Nuggets took by handing Michael Porter Jr. a max contract.


#3 Michael Porter Jr.'s reliance on other Denver Nuggets players

Denver Nuggets v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Six
Denver Nuggets v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Six

Most players who receive maximum contracts in the NBA are reliable self creators and/or engines of their teams. Other players who aren't elite creators making similar money to what the Denver Nuggets agreed to pay Porter are Rudy Gobert, Klay Thompson, Tobias Harris, and Ben Simmons.

Tobias Harris may be a decent comparison for the 23-year-old wing, but that Harris contract is widely viewed as an overpay. The other names mentioned are All-Defense contenders on a yearly basis when healthy, which Porter has not shown to this point. His weakside rim protection has been progressing, but the Denver Nuggets' willingness to offer maximum money likely revolves around his scoring ability.

The trio of Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. are a match made in heaven on the offensive end of the floor with Jokic as the obvious centerpiece. However, issues could emerge with the Porter contract if something were to happen to Jokic.

79.2 percent of Michael Porter Jr.'s points came off assists last season, meaning just 8.2 percent were self-created looks. Sure, the idea is that Porter is worth this deal to the Denver Nuggets because of his pairing with their MVP. There is just a risk in paying a player maximum money because of his fit with someone else.


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#2 The Denver Nuggets could have waited

Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets - Game Four
Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets - Game Four

I may be missing something, but I don't understand why the Denver Nuggets felt the need to offer Michael Porter Jr. a maximum extension this offseason. They are headed into the 2021-22 NBA season without their second most important piece in Jamal Murray, meaning a significantly increased responsibility for MPJ.

It is to be seen how he responds to the added defensive focus and the Denver Nuggets' need for him to create on the perimeter. We know that Porter is a high-level third player on a championship caliber roster, but you don't play $200-million to a player whose ceiling caps there.

Michael Porter Jr. could very well become that guy, he is only 25-years-old, but this season would have shed some light on that very question. The Denver Nuggets could have waited until the offseason with no concerns of getting outbid if they knew they were willing to offer maximum money if need be.


#1 Michael Porter Jr.'s injury Concerns

Houston Rockets v Denver Nuggets
Houston Rockets v Denver Nuggets

As mentioned at the top, Michael Porter Jr. suffered two notable back injuries before making his way to the Denver Nuggets. The Denver Nuggets did smartly elect to have the 6'10" wing sit his rookie season in the NBA, and there have been no reported back issues since.

The confusing aspect is why no incentives were added to his contract, revolving around the total number of games played in a given season. $172-million of the $207-million is guaranteed for Michael Porter Jr. and the only incentive required to reach that maximum mark is making an All-NBA team.

If MPJ does find himself on an All-NBA roster, the Denver Nuggets should be happy to pay him the full amount agreed to this offseason. The reality is that Porter has had injuries tied to his early basketball career, and all it could take is one more back issue for the Denver Nuggets to regret their decision.

I wish Michael Porter Jr. all the best health throughout the entirety of his NBA career, but it's shocking the Denver Nuggets would not include incentives in his maximum contract extension with that in mind.

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Edited by Parimal