The Denver Nuggets have more than stayed afloat while waiting on Jamal Murray and/or Michael Porter Jr. to return to the court. On the strength of what should be a second straight MVP campaign from Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets are currently the West’s No. 6 seed, and now it appears that Murray could in fact be inching closer to that return.
On Tuesday, NBA insider Shams Charania reported that Murray, who has yet to play this season after having ACL surgery last April, has been assigned to the Grand Rapids Gold, the Nuggets’ G League affiliate, for “practice reps” in the next step of his recovery.
Following this report, Mike Singer of The Denver Post reported that Murray’s work with Grand Rapids will likely consist of 4-on-4 and 5-on-5 action, but not full court. Singer previously reported that Murray was “50-50” to return this season. This is obviously a step in the right direction.
As for Porter, Sam Amick of The Athletic had this to say about a potential return two weeks ago: “A source with knowledge of Porter Jr.’s status said the 23 year old is on track to return in mid-to-late March.” Here we are, in mid-March.
Until we actually see Murray or Porter, who had back surgery in December, on the court for the Nuggets, none of this is for sure. But with how good the Nuggets have looked without these two, you can’t help but get excited about the possibility of one or both of them returning in time for the playoffs.
If they do, Denver is going to be a serious problem. Look at the on-off splits for Jokic. When he’s playing, Denver might well be the best team in the league without a second star. Now add Murray, a proven nuclear playoff threat, to that mix and imagine what the Nuggets could do.
After the Aaron Gordon trade last season, Denver legitimately looked like the best team in the West before the injury to Murray. Even with Phoenix’s regular-season dominance, the West feels wide open again. A player of Murray’s caliber — and certainly a duo like Murray and Porter — returning for the postseason would take Denver from a team that can scare anyone to a team that could very realistically win the West.