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Charles Barkley believes Michael Porter Jr. can be the Nuggets’ 2nd best player

Charles Barkley, Michael Porter Jr., Nuggets

Inside The NBA analyst Charles Barkley gave rookie Michael Porter Jr. some huge praise after the Denver Nuggets forward impressed in an overtime win over the Golden State Warriors.

On a night where the Nuggets were missing 60% of their starting lineup with Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Paul Millsap out with their respective injuries, Porter Jr. stepped up, dialing in 18 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals, and a block in the Nuggets’ 134-131 win on Thursday.

Barkley argued the 21-year-old rookie, who missed last season with a hip surgery, could become Denver’s second-best player by the end of the season.

“By the end of the season, he’s going to be the second-best player,” said Barkley after the game. “If this team’s going to do anything, he’s got to become a more integral part of it.”

Porter has made the most of his opportunities in his rookie season, he’s just been lacking more of them. The No. 14 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft had top-five upside when he first slid to the middle of the round, but another hip surgery silenced those thoughts, making him into a redemption prospect.

Now healthy, Porter has shown his innate scoring talent, a penchant for rebounding, and his natural intangibles — all areas that can help the Nuggets.

At 6-foot-10, Porter still doesn’t crack the starting rotation, stuck behind veteran Paul Millsap and offseason signing Jerami Grant — yet one could argue he could be better than either of them with more ample opportunities.

The 21-year-old rookie is shooting 54.7% from the field and 40.7% from deep, but getting only 12 minutes per game.

Nikola Jokic is undoubtedly the cornerstone of this franchise, but an argument can be made that Porter can surpass an inconsistent Jamal Murray with just a little vote of confidence from head coach Mike Malone.

So long as that happens before the end of the season, Barkley could end up being proved right by the time this 2019-20 campaign comes to an end.