Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. played only nine games in the 2021-22 season because of more back problems, which have plagued him going back to his college days. There was some hope Porter would return to play toward the end of the season after undergoing another back surgery, but that never came to fruition.
Friday, Nuggets president Josh Kroenke spoke to the media about Porter and the departure of Tim Connelly to the Minnesota Timberwolves, among other things. On the Porter front, Kroenke gave a rather eye-opening take on his status:
Josh Kroenke on MPJ's contract:"We're concerned about his injuries. We're not concerned about his contract."
My two cents: (They're connected).
— Mike Singer (@msinger) June 3, 2022
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Porter had back issues during his lone season at Missouri that kept him out most of the year. He fell to No. 14 in the 2018 NBA Draft and then didn’t play during his first NBA season because of back surgery. After showing flashes the following season, he then broke out by putting up 19.0 points per game in 2020-21.
That big season and Porter’s star potential resulted in the Nuggets giving him a five-year deal worth over $172 million, with over $145 million guaranteed. This despite just one season of high-level play and the troubling history of back problems, which then immediately cropped up this past season.
If the Nuggets are worried about Porter’s back injury woes, they should also be worried about that massive contract they gave him. If he doesn’t ever reach his potential because of this, that’s an issue when it comes to building out the roster. It will become even more problematic if he doesn’t even approach his play from the 2020-21 season. He was clearly a shell of himself in the nine games he played in 2021-22.
Denver just has to hope Porter’s latest surgery fixed the issue and that it won’t be a long-term problem. Backs are tricky, though, and this is going to be something to monitor as his career goes along.