Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. didn't play a single game during his rookie season after he was selected with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2018 draft, but he reportedly will be ready to play by July's Las Vegas Summer League.
Mike Singer of the Denver Post reported the news and also cited league sources who said the Missouri product's return from two back surgeries within an eight-month span was slowed by drop foot.
Back surgeries can sometimes lead to drop foot, which makes it more difficult to lift the front of one's foot. As a result, Porter will wear a brace on his leg when he takes the court in Las Vegas.
"To be honest, going into the season, I didn't really expect myself to be able to play at 100 percent if I was to come play," Porter said. "But like, the way I feel now, it's leaps and bounds beyond where I thought I'd be at this point. I feel so good. … I feel like I'm a better player than I've ever been."
Porter arrived at Missouri as a 5-star recruit and the No. 2 overall player in the class of 2017, per 247Sports' composite rankings. There was plenty of hype, but it was also justified as he expected to eventually hear his name called as a top-five draft pick.
However, Porter appeared in a mere three games during his one collegiate season due to back injuries, and he averaged just 10.0 points and 6.7 rebounds.
The injuries robbed him of his rookie season, but Porter sees his initial NBA experience as a positive one: "It's a huge advantage. Just being on the bench, watching them play, seeing where I'm going to get my shots in the offense, and just learning the NBA game. It’s a lot different than college, spacing, and everything."
He earned praise from head coach Michael Malone and teammates—including Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap—in the Singer piece, which suggests he may ultimately reach expectations.
Considering the Nuggets were the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and reached Game 7 of the playoffs' second round without him, they will be even more dangerous to the rest of the league if Porter is healthy.
He would give them an explosive matchup problem at forward who could exploit the openings created by the additional attention Jokic receives.