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Agent says Michael Porter Jr. cleared for contact, could return in March

Memphis Grizzlies v Denver Nuggets

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 21: Michael Porter Jr. #1 of the Denver Nuggets warms up against the Memphis Grizzlies at Ball Arena on January 21, 2022 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ethan Mito/Clarkson Creative/Getty Images)

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The Denver Nuggets have won six in a row, 8-of-9, have an MVP candidate in Nikola Jokic...

And they are just about to get second and third best players back.

Point guard Jamal Murray is getting closer to a return and is expected back before the playoffs, reports Sam Amick at The Athletic. Now comes word Michael Porter Jr. has been cleared for contact as he recovers from another back surgery, and he is eyeing a March return. Porter’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, laid it out for Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Michael Porter Jr. is progressing to be cleared for on-court contact within the next week, freeing a path for him to return to the lineup sometime in March, his agent, Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports, told ESPN on Sunday.

Porter underwent lumbar spine surgery three months ago, a procedure that has allowed him to return to the floor moving and shooting pain-free in recent weeks. Once Porter is cleared for contact, it’s expected it’ll be just a matter of a final ramp-up until his return in March.

The Nuggets signed Porter to a max contract extension last offseason (five years at $172 million, with $145 million of it guaranteed) coming off his playoff performance averaging 17.4 points per game and shooting 39.7% from 3. However, with his back issues to open this season he averaged just 9.9 points a game on 35.9% shooting overall and 20.8% from 3.

If Murray and Porter are back and even at 85-90% of themselves, the Nuggets become a team to watch in the playoffs. They have the depth, the balance, and the shooting to threaten the Suns and Warriors at the top of the conference — and with Jokic the Nuggets are an excellent clutch team.

First, however, Murray and Porter need to get back on the court. That seems like it could happen in the coming weeks.