It took longer than expected, but Michael Porter Jr. indeed became Missouri’s first NBA draft lottery pick since Keyon Dooling in 2000 when the Denver Nuggets selected him with the 14th pick on Thursday evening.
Let us take the opportunity, then, to learn some basic intel on your new favorite NBA team.
1. The Nuggets are owned by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment.
As in, Stan Kroenke. And Josh Kroenke. Josh was the president of the Nuggets until April, when he got promoted to Vice Chairman of KSE.
“This appointment is a well-deserved and long overdue recognition of Josh’s many contributions to not only the Avalanche and Nuggets organizations but also his role in the overall global growth of KSE and our sister companies,” said Jim Martin, KSE CEO and President. “Josh has evolved into a respected leader and innovator in sports business, and is already leading many of our organization’s investments in forward-thinking multimedia platforms and emerging technologies.”
Kroenke, 37, serves on the Board of Governors of the NHL and NBA. He is also a member of the NBA’s influential Planning Committee. In addition to his NBA and NHL responsibilities, he is an Alternate Governor for the Colorado Rapids (MLS), and sits on the board of Arsenal Football Club of the English Premier League.
2. By my count, three former Tigers have played for Denver.
- In 1996-97, Melvin Booker played five games and 21 minutes for the Nuggets, scoring five points on 2-for-4 shooting, with three assists to seven turnovers.
- In 2011-12, DeMarre Carroll played four games and 21 minutes, scoring 12 points on 6-for-6 shooting, with three rebounds, three assists, and two turnovers. On a per-minute basis, ahem, he’s basically the best Nugget ever.
- Linas Kleiza played the first four seasons of his pro career in Denver. By his third year, he had carved out a solid niche. In 2007-08, he averaged 11.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, and in 2008-09 he played all 82 games, averaging 9.9 and 4.0.
3. The Nuggets went 46-36 last season, barely missing out on a playoff bid.
One good thing about falling in the draft is that you’re probably falling to a better team. Denver started last season just 26-25 but finished 20-11, missing out on a playoff spot by losing in overtime to Minnesota on the last day of the season.
Scoring was a community effort for the Nugs. Five players — Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, Will Barton, and Paul Millsap — all averaged between 14.6 and 18.5 points per game. Their ORtg (points per 100 possession) was an excellent 112.5, sixth in the league. Their defense, a less impressive 110.9, 25th. The good news there is that Porter won’t be asked to carry an immediate, heavy load. The bad news is, he’s probably not going to improve their defense all that much, and there’s only so much he can improve their offense.
Three of those five leading scorers, by the way (Jokic, Harris, Murray) were all 23 or younger. If Porter’s back holds up, Denver just got a potential top-five talent in the draft’s teens and stumbled into one of the strongest young cores in the league.
4. Denver had a need at small forward.
We’ll say that’s the closest thing to Porter’s natural position (you could make the case for SG, too), and it was probably Denver’s weakest position. Last year’s roster featured 37-year old Richard Jefferson (who played just 20 games), 30-year old Wilson Chandler (who averaged 10 PPG), and 27-year old part-timer Torrey Craig. So there’s PT available, and with minimal pressure.
5. Denver fans seem happy with the pick.
Physically, Porter looks a lot like Paul George and Danilo Gallinari. George has excellent athleticism at 6’10, while Gallinari’s athleticism has sapped over the years due to...injuries. His ability to play either forward position will be extremely helpful for Denver if he can stay on the court. Denver doesn’t have a player on the team that can physically match up with most of the big wings, and Porter projects to be that player at his ceiling. [...]
Overall, Michael Porter Jr. is a massive risk. Last year, Denver passed on a massive risk with OG Anunoby at 13th overall, and it blew up in their face. This year, Denver is taking the plunge.
His fit with Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris is intriguing. He has number 1 scorer potential, fills a hole at the stretch forward position, and could also bring a degree of defense. Or, he could become selfish and decide he wants to be the face of the franchise, something Denver probably doesn’t need at this point. Or, he could be injured for the rest of his career, and it’s all moot.