How has Michael Porter Jr. been in the 2023 NBA Finals? Well, it depends on who you ask.

Through two games, Porter Jr. has been averaging 9.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, and a block, decent numbers on paper, but leaves you wanting for more.

At 6-10, Porter Jr. can be a matchup nightmare for the relatively smaller Miami Heat frontcourt, but with the way he’s been playing, it seems like they’ve been a nightmare for him.

Porter Jr. has been able to get quite a number of shots off in these NBA Finals (12 per game) but only converts on 29.2 percent of those attempts. The Heat defense knows they’ve got the job done more or less if he has the ball, given his one assist and just two free throw attempts in two games. Because of his struggles and lack of production, Porter Jr.’s minutes went from 43 in Game 1 to just 26 in Game 2.

With the way things are going, the memes are already writing themselves.

For all his potential, Porter Jr. remains a curious case.

Prior to the 2018 NBA Draft, Porter Jr.’s back was a concern given the time he missed in college due to a lower back injury. That didn’t stop the Denver Nuggets from selecting him with the 14th overall pick and waiting for more than a year after Porter Jr. underwent lumbar spine surgery and missed the entire 2018-2019 season.

Porter Jr. finally took to the court in 2019-2020, but it was in the Orlando bubble where the former Missouri Tiger showed flashes of potential. His effectiveness on the court gave the Nuggets another threat and allowed Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray to operate with more space as well.

The big shots and the Sportscenter highlights all gave credence to the talk that Porter Jr. could be one of the bubble’s breakout stars.

It seemed to be the case the following season as Porter Jr. averaged career-highs across the board, earning himself a five-year, $172-million extension that could go as high as $207 million depending on certain All-NBA incentives.

Unfortunately, he only played in nine games in 2021-2022 after getting his third back surgery. It had the feeling that Porter Jr. was back to square one, but his regular season numbers of 17.4 points on 48.7/41.4/80.0 shooting splits only showed that not only was the surgery needed, but that he also had the ability to bounce back.

With the series tied heading to Miami, Denver needs the Porter Jr. of old.

Perhaps a change of scenery would do him good as in the 2023 NBA Playoffs, his scoring (15.9 from 12.7), rebounding (8.7 from 7.8), and assists (2.1 from 1.3) are better on the road than at home, a trend that’s somewhat reflected in the regular season as well. The longer breaks in between finals games should allow him and the rest of the Nuggets to acclimatize themselves to their surroundings.

To be fair to Porter Jr., his rebounding (which is second behind Jokic’s 10.5 boards per game) has also helped him stay on the court and the extra possessions would be crucial when they play in a hostile environment. A number of his points also come off offensive rebounds and he does get them with authority.

He’s certainly gotten flak for his passing, but that will be a notable area for him to contribute even more. With Miami likely to go to more of a zone defense, ball movement will be critical in finding open shooters and in turn reigniting his offense. The Heat have opted to make Jokic a scorer rather than a playmaker so it’s up to Porter Jr. and Murray to find loopholes in the Miami defense.

Michael Porter Jr.’s journey from multiple back surgeries to the NBA Finals is a remarkable feat, but his story is far from over. The first two games have been a mixed bag for Porter Jr., but he has shown that adversity is just a hill to climb if he puts his will into it.