When the offseason opened, three members of the 2018 NBA Draft class received max extensions immediately. Luka Doncic, Trae Young and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have all agreed to long-term deals with their teams, and now, one of the best remaining players in that class is working towards joining them. Michael Porter Jr. is also eligible for an extension, and as he told Mike Singer of the Denver Post, things are moving in the right direction.
“Everything is sounding great, in the direction that I’d like to be headed,” Porter said. “Nothing is set in stone, but everything is going smooth as far as that goes.”
Porter is eligible for the same five-year, $172 million pact that Gilgeous-Alexander agreed to with the Thunder, but if he earns All-NBA honors next season, he could get the $207 million Doncic signed for thanks to the Rose Rule. Those escalators could be negotiated into a deal now, but there are credible reasons for Denver not to simply have given Porter his full max at the first possible moment as Dallas, Atlanta and Oklahoma City did for their stars.
Porter missed his entire rookie season with a back injury. He has thrived since then, but teams are cautious when it comes to maxing out injury-prone players. Joel Embiid’s original max contract contained a number of guarantee mechanisms based on games played, and that is a model Denver could try to replicate. The Nuggets also have to decide just how much they’re willing to pay for this roster. Jamal Murray is making the max. Nikola Jokic is as well, and he’ll be eligible for a supermax extension next offseason as well. Aaron Gordon will hit free agency next offseason, and the Nuggets gave up quite a bit to acquire him. Will Barton, JaMychal Green and Monte Morris all make market value on multi-year deals.
The Nuggets are among the NBA’s thriftier teams. Committing to an extended period in the luxury tax, including multiple possible years paying the repeater tax, might not be financially tenable for them unless they are competing for championships. They looked dominant before Murray went down with a torn ACL, but that was in a fairly small sample. Without having seen this group in the postseason, they don’t know how close they are to a title.
That is likely what is delaying what is sure to be a hefty extension. The Nuggets signed Murray on the first day they were able to because they weren’t close enough to really be thinking about the hard decisions yet. They had a very talented player and they kept him. The stakes are higher on a Porter deal. Every dollar they save through a protracted negotiation will mean a great deal in terms of keeping the supporting cast in place and building a championship roster.