Michael Porter Jr. has 13 total dunks this season. Four of those have come in two of the Nuggets’ last three games.
It’s a sign that Porter’s body is feeling healthier. The heel injury that sidelined him for 13 games last month is no longer lingering, and Porter’s back is continuing to heal from his latest back surgery, which cost him most of last season.
“I think my foot’s getting better and I just think my nerve is healing from my back surgery and stuff like that,” Porter said Tuesday (you can watch his full post-practice interview here). “I feel like I’m getting my legs back under me a little bit. I don’t feel like I’m anywhere near where I will be toward the end of the season, but I feel like I’m in a good place overall.”
The increased athleticism Porter has found as of late has been noticeable. He’s playing with more burst and explosiveness. It seems like he’s trusting his body more too. Two of Porter’s 13 dunks this season came in the Nuggets’ 29-point win over the Suns last week. They were both off-the-dribble in-traffic slams that we haven’t seen often from Porter often this year.
On both of those plays, Porter passed up open 3s, which is also something we don’t usually see from the forward. Porter is in a shooting slump right now, and you can use the term slump lightly. He’s “only” shooting 37.2% from 3 across the 13 games since he’s returned from the heel injury — a percentage most NBA players would kill for but for Porter is a sub-par number — and is trying to find other ways to put points on the board within the flow of the Nuggets’ offense.
“I’ve realized they’re going to close out pretty hard to me,” Porter said. “So I think just trying to get to the rim or try to impact the game in other ways is a focus. I’ve done it better than other times during the season so far, but that’s the goal. Trying to impact the game in other ways.”
Against the Clippers last Friday, Porter passed up another open 3 (this time in transition), put the ball on the floor, absorbed contact, and finished a difficult reverse layup.
Another potential reason for his shooting slump is that the typical off-day routine Porter follows has been interrupted. Recently, Porter hasn’t been in the gym as much during non-game days because he has put a focus on recovery and making sure his heel is getting the proper rest it needs.
But don’t worry, the beautiful 3-point stroke that’s been central to Porter’s offensive arsenal and has made him such a force on that end of the floor throughout his career isn’t going anywhere. Porter went 4-8 from 3-point range Sunday in the Nuggets’ win over the Magic. He had four triples in the first half alone. He’s going to keep launching from distance.
“I think I’m going to keep shooting,” said Porter. “Because game-to-game it can turn around quick.”