Michael Porter Jr. Reportedly 'Is Untouchable' in Trade Talks for Nuggets

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistDecember 16, 2019

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 10: Michael Porter Jr. #1 of the Denver Nuggets grabs a rebound against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on December 10, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Denver Nuggets rookie forward Michael Porter Jr. is "untouchable" in trade talks ahead of February's deadline, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski (h/t RealGM and NBA writer Sagar Trika). 

During Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe's Trade Special Show on Sunday night, Lowe suggested that his favorite fake, prospective trade was the New Orleans Pelicans trading Jrue Holiday to the Nuggets for Gary Harris, salary filler and another young player, potentially Porter. But Woj countered that Porter is off the table. 

Porter, 21, was the No. 14 overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft but sat out the season with a back injury. He's played sparingly this season, averaging 4.9 points and 2.8 rebounds in just 8.9 minutes per game. He's shooting 43.9 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three, appearing in 16 contests overall. 

"The more he plays—and I'm going to continue to play him—and the more he gets those first- and second-quarter minutes where it's not just the end of the game ... the game is going to slow down for him," head coach Mike Malone said on Dec. 13, per Kyle Fredrickson of the Denver Post. "When the game does slow down for him, I think he's got scary potential."

"He's getting more comfortable each and every game," shooting guard Gary Harris added. "He's a very talented player and he's definitely going to help this team out. We're just trying to help him along the way."

But the Nuggets have to seriously evaluate their upside and ambitions for this season. At 17-8, they are already six games behind the Los Angeles Lakers (24-3) for the top overall seed in the Western Conference. They don't have the overall talent of a team like the Los Angeles Clippers, boasting the dynamic duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. 

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At the moment, the Nuggets appear to be in the second tier of contenders out West, joining teams like the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks (once Luka Doncic returns from his sprained ankle) and Utah Jazz. 

A blockbuster deal for another All-Star player to pair with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray could perhaps change that outlook, however. And for teams looking to get young talent if they move off a star player, Porter will easily be considered Denver's best asset. 

One benefit the Nuggets have, however, is that Jokic is just 24 and Murray is just 22. They don't have to push all of their chips into this season. As Porter continues to develop, his timeline and prime could ultimately line up with that of Jokic and Murray. If the Nuggets believe he's only a season or two away from being a star, it would make sense that he's untouchable. 

But if the Nuggets are ready to go all-in on this season, Porter is the trade chip other teams will likely be most interested in acquiring.