Nuggets' Michael Porter Jr. discusses recovery from back injury, expectations for season

Michael Porter Jr. isn’t going to compare himself to the other rookies in his class.

The 20-year-old forward said in May he felt he was the best player in this year’s draft. But, he’s not focusing on proving he was right.

“I wouldn’t say I would try to use that as motivation by trying to be better than, and making my goal to be, better than every other rookie,” Porter told Omnisport as part of his partnership with Autotrader, which he used to help purchase a car for his mom this summer. “I’m trying to be the best player that I can be every night … That’s just me being confident in my abilities”

Porter was one of the top-ranked players in the 2017 recruiting class but was limited to just three games at Missouri because of back problems. The injury caused him to slip in the draft before he was selected by the Nuggets with the 14th pick.

Porter underwent a second back surgery in mid-July and has not appeared in a preseason game for Denver. He said he is considered day-to-day and there’s currently no timetable for his return.

“(The rehab process) has been taxing for sure,” Porter said. “I’m not going to lie. It’s hard every day doing the same stuff. But it’s necessary. Right now, it’s just learning how to be patient and staying motivated every day and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Seeing the progress I’m making every day makes it pretty easy to go in there and get the work done.”

The Nuggets registered a 46-36 record in 2017-18 and finished one game behind the Timberwolves for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Porter said Denver is aiming to advance to the postseason for the first time since 2012-13.

“We want to make the playoffs,” Porter said. “(But) I always tell the guys, ‘Why not take it a step further and try to win a championship?’ Make your goals as high as possible and try and make it there.”

The Nuggets are led by developing star Nikola Jokic and veteran Paul Millsap. They also signed point guard Isaiah Thomas as a free agent in the offseason.

Porter hopes to make an impact for Denver at the small forward spot when he makes it back on the court.

“I think the young core that we have is going to continue to get better and better. I’m going to love to be a part of that,” Porter said. “We kind of have a lot of guys that can play the three, but in terms of a pure scorer at the three, we don’t really have that. So, I’m looking forward to my role on the team.”

While at Missouri, Porter shared the court with his younger brother Jontay and their father was also an assistant coach with the team. Porter said he enjoyed the experience, even though he struggled with the injury and only appeared in a handful of games.  

“I wasn’t feeling 100 percent, or even close to it,” Porter said. “But it was definitely cool to be able to be on the court with my brother and my dad.”

Porter said being part of a basketball family has helped him achieve some of his goals.

“My dad put a ball in my hand when I was really young,” Porter said. “Worked me out when I was really young. I feel like that is kind of how I got to where I’m at, just spending more time than other guys in the gym.”

The Nuggets will open the regular season Wednesday against the Clippers. Porter is excited to make his NBA debut, whenever it may be.

“Playing against the best players in the world is what I’m looking forward to the most,” Porter said.