It's Showtime: The Evolution of Michael Porter Jr.

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It's Showtime for Michael Porter Jr. as the Denver Nuggets' youngest star emerged as a go-to player during the franchise's most promising postseason trip since 2009.

After teammate Jamal Murray sustained an unfortunate end-of-season injury in April, Porter – outspoken, confident and arguably the team's naturally most gifted talent – knew he needed reinforcement. He was expected.

And as we've seen over the past few months, MPJ responded immediately when the moment prompted MPJ to lead his team.

“At first I played more off-ball. Play Jamal and (Nikola) Jokic on the weak side, get wide open threesomes and drive remaining stock, ”Porter told SLAM. "But when Jamal went under, more was expected of me and my role expanded."

Was it difficult for Porter to compensate for Murray's absence when he had more options within the offense?

"To be honest," Porter says, "it wasn't difficult because I've been doing it all my life."

Despite his confident nature having weathered stormy stretches over the past two seasons, it appears that Malone's holistic and structuralist philosophy has deviated from Porter.

"It's about roles," Porter insisted when asked about a higher workload on his shoulders. "I still play a lot of off-ball."

While his role as a secondary goalscorer or rebounder may be the first thought many have when assessing Porter's performance lately, it seems that it is indeed the intangibles that have been at the fore during Murray's absence.

“When Jamal went under, my mentality had to shift to a leadership role. To be a consistent guide with my energy and persistence. "

In that regard, Porter learned a lot from Jokic. While some make fun of the idea that the understated Jokic is a leader, Porter has developed a great deal of respect for the face of the Nuggets, paying close attention to how the MVP candidate improves every day.

"First of all, Joker isn't even from here. So he won't be the loudest. But you don't have to preach and tell people what to do to be a leader. You can lead by example."

Jokic's leadership, "his persistence (and) the way he takes care of his body," didn't just affect Porter, however. They have become formulas for him to be as successful as the Serbian center, both individually and for the nuggets.

Similarly, Porter can also reflect on conversations he had with veteran security guard Austin Rivers, invaluable lessons from a player who went from lottery voting to almost out of the league in the blink of an eye.

Rivers, who signed a rest-of-the-season deal with Denver on April 30, is a player Porter has long liked.

"He's got one of the best high school mixtapes ever," exclaims Porter. "But while you want to be – you want to be an all-star – it's about what's best for the team.

"It's about roles," says Porter.

While Jokic and Rivers have all played the role of seasoned mentor, Porter really only needs to look for close friend Aaron Gordon to find an example of why roles can be the single most important factor in a gamer's success.

Gordon, whom Porter describes as "one of the coolest people he met in the NBA" for clicking well off the pitch and having similar interests, was taken over by the Nuggets back in March when they tried to defend their front court to strengthen.

The earlier fourth overall pick had been miscast in a two-way role in Orlando, which did a disservice to his elite athleticism and defensive versatility. After more than seven seasons with Magic, the 25-year-old finally asked for a deal that eventually led him to Denver.

No longer his job to be a top scorer, Gordon doesn't look back and revel in his role as a defensive specialist, while the Nuggets have since played the role of a legitimate championship contender.

The same level of peace seems to be looming for Porter, whose desire to become a full gamer doesn't have to come with the same level of strain that was placed on Gordon.

All because Porter bought himself into a role and because his organization understands the importance of that role.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone, who at times had a controversial relationship with Porter, was probably the biggest catalyst for MPJ's shift in mindset.

Talking about his coach's approach and growing relationship after a record-breaking win over the Toronto Raptors on April 30, Porter openly notes how, as an adult, you play for certain coaches who literally make you do anything and develop bad habits.

"I was fortunate to have some coaches who didn't. They knew my potential and were very tough on me. Coach Malone is no different."

Porter is a five-star recruit who played under former NBA star Brandon Roy at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle. He is only a few years away from leading his teams to state championships (2016, 2017) and is named McDonald & # 39; s All-American MVP (2017) or National High School Player of the Year (2017) excellent.

Given that his rookie season in the NBA is the only time in his basketball career that Porter hasn't been seen as a go-to player, it should come as no surprise that it took him time to adjust to a tertiary role.

A role he excelled in, but one that has really expanded over the past few months.

The numbers themselves only tell part of the story. Porter averaged 23.5 points per game on a scorching shot of 0.560 percent from the field and 0.489 percent from the 3-point range since April 14th.

Porter is a three-tier goalscorer who makes hard hits look like ordinary acrobatics. It acts as a pressure relief valve for Jokic and the nuggets, especially when it dots behind the 3-point line.

Porter's 6:10 frame and shot feel pretty much prevented Denver from missing a punch. The Nuggets went 13-5 (in the regular season) after Murray's injury.

For a player who once made the headlines by suggesting that – then a newcomer – he needed more flair for his team to reach his potential, Porter's heightened mindset can only be ascribed to leading the Mile High.

Not that Porter was out of his money as he advocated more ball movement and a few more touches during the 2020 NBA playoffs. Its soundbite simply made many wonder – and not quietly – whether MPJ ​​was a team player.

But here is Porter, indulging in the fact that he's part of a system rather than its face. In a year this kind of evolution is not unprecedented, but it is certainly fascinating. The development was even televised.

When the Nuggets make their most promising postseason trip since 2009, it will be a round one test that determines the true identity of the Nuggets when they join the Portland Trail Blazers (and former franchise cornerstone Carmelo Anthony ) put.

Regardless of how they turned out over the following weeks, Porter's transformation into a shrewd sniper seems to have the same level of solidity as Jokic's reputation as an elite gamer.

The show has already started, but the best is yet to come.

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Photos via Getty Images.

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