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Will Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. return this season for Nuggets?

Denver’s star guard and forward are still on the sidelines after the All-Star break.

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DENVER NUGGETS VS MILWAUKEE BUCKS, NBA
Michael Porter Jr. of the Denver Nuggets and Jamal Murray play against the Milwaukee Bucks during the second quarter at Ball Arena on Monday, February 8, 2021.
Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets have managed to stay in the playoff mix behind reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, which would normally be a great sign for a franchise anchored by a rising star. However, this season seems like yet another “what if” moment for Denver as Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. remain sidelined with their respective injuries. Those two rose to stardom in the Orlando bubble and had Nuggets fans excited about a “Big 3” for the future. It hasn’t materialized over the last two seasons with injuries, but there’s a chance both players could return this year at the right time.

Jamal Murray/Michael Porter Jr. injury updates

April 10 update: There’s some gamesmanship here, with head coach Mike Malone suggesting Murray could come back and play a few minutes Sunday against the Lakers per Mike Singer. It seems like the guard could make a return for the playoffs if this is true.

April 9 update: According to Shams Charania, both Murray and Porter Jr. are out for Sunday’s game and are unlikely to return for the playoffs.

March 29 update: Porter Jr. has reportedly suffered a minor setback in his rehab process, which puts his return to the court in doubt. According to Mike Singer, the Nuggets haven’t officially made a decision on Porter Jr. but the thought was that he’ll be able to return before the playoffs.

March 22 update: Denver Post reporter Mike Singer outlined both Murray and Porter Jr.’s timelines to return this season with so few games remaining. At one point, it seemed like both players would be back by the end of the regular season and there was optimism from the team on that front. Now, it looks like Murray is not going to come back and Porter Jr. is uncertain to come back. The Nuggets have played well with Jokic as the central figure, but they won’t be considered title contenders if Murray and Porter Jr. remain on the sidelines.

March 15 update: Murray is going to practice with Denver G-League affiliate Wednesday and return to Denver Saturday, per Harrison Wind. Denver’s three-game road trip ends Friday, so Saturday makes sense for Murray to rejoin the team. The Nuggets are coming together at the right time and Murray’s potential return is huge for this roster.

March 1 update: Porter Jr. is heading to Denver’s G-League club to get his legs under him, per Mike Singer. Porter Jr. went through his first contact today, and is set to return prior to the playoffs.

February 28 update: There is a “strong sense” that both Murray and MPJ will be able to return in time for the playoffs, per The Athletic.

February 27 update: Porter Jr. is trending towards being cleared for on-court contact drills within the next week, per Adrian Wojnarowski. The Nuggets hope he’ll be able to return at some point in March, which would be big news for a team that has managed to stay outside the play-in tournament seedings despite a ton of injuries.

Murray suffered a torn ACL on April 12, 2021 and underwent surgery shortly after. The Nuggets have listed him as “out indefinitely” since that point. Porter Jr. underwent a third back surgery in November, and his agent said he was out for the season. However, the Nuggets expect to clear both players to return as per team president Tim Connelly. That’s good news for the team and both guys. Porter Jr. is likely to come back sooner than Murray because his surgery was not for structural damage, while Murray’s was.

From a fantasy and betting perspective, the Nuggets continue to roll out Monte Morris, Bones Hyland and Aaron Gordon to fill in for those guys. Denver continues to be a solid play as a favorite and Jokic props will remain strong with the center continuing to play at a high level.

In terms of the playoff picture, Murray and Porter Jr. would make Denver a contender. The guard seems on track to be back by the end of the regular season and could help the Nuggets get a better seed, while Porter Jr. seems set for a playoff return. It feels like both players are tied together, as they’d elevated Denver into the contender realm. If the Nuggets do get one player back, it’s highly likely they’ll get both back.