The Washington Wizards are a franchise whose best moments often come as the punch line of a news anchor’s lame jokes rather than from their performance on the basketball court. After last year’s 4-28 start sans John Wall, things were looking as bleak as they ever have for the franchise. The active roster assembled some version of cast-off veterans, fringe D-Leaguers, and young talent that had yet to learn how to play in the NBA. The team did rebound from that low point to finish the last 50 games of the season playing exactly .500 ball (25-25). But despite late season optimism as the result of strong play, questions aplenty remain for this incomplete roster. Did John Wall just show a flash of greatness or is it something more permanent? What will be the offseason fate of key piece Martell Webster? Do Emeka Okafor and Nene purposely try not to score the basketball? Does Jan Vesely understand the basic rules and regulations of the sport?
Fast forward to last month’s lottery. The Wizards front office knew the backcourt is as promising as ever, with Wall and 1st team All-Rookie selection Bradley Beal manning those spots. And at least one big man between Nene and Okafor should be in uniform for the entirety of next season. Clearly the holes were at the forward spots. Washington was slated to pick #8, and inevitably planned to either trade the pick or talk themselves into a Shabazz Muhammad or Alex Len. Needless to say, in a draft that already was causing ulcers for half the GMs in the league, not much was expected as a return. But those beautiful ping pong balls fell into place, just like the magical day in 2010. And the Wizards moved up to the coveted #3 slot amongst a crop of players that may not turn up more than 4-5 good ones. In my opinion, this selection is a no-brainer for Washington. And they need to look no further than the guy who dressed for games right down the hall from the team. Otto Porter, the versatile small forward from Georgetown should be the pick for the Wizards. There is talk of half of management being really enamored with Anthony Bennett but the time has come for Ernie Grunfeld to stop making picks off of unharnessed potential and select a player who would fit in seamlessly with the roster (for immediate examples, please see: Vesely, Jan; Seraphin, Kevin; McGee, Javale; Young, Nick).
Porter’s game reminds me of a young Tayshaun Prince or Luol Deng, right down to the unconventional (but effective) release of his jump shot. He is not elite at one specific category but excels at providing the team with whatever it may need at a given moment, be it scoring, passing, rebounding, or defending. The Wizards have the offensive firepower with Wall and Beal and could really use another facilitator who can make plays without the ball and does the little things that make good teams great. He is not the type of player who can take over games or carry a team for long stretches and this showed in the NCAA tournament went 2-seed Hoyas were unceremoniously bounced by the FGCU aka Dunk City in Round 1. He needs additional work on his jump shot and needs to be able to consistently bring it out to 3 point range. And he needs to add some weight with that wiry 6’9” 205 lbs. frame (which does boast an impressive wingspan of 7’2”). But make no mistake, the Wizards will be a better team with Porter on the court, just from his natural basketball IQ and skill on both ends of the court (he sported 4.2 Offensive WS along with 3.1 Defensive WS). When Georgetown ran Porter on the floor, they scored 122 points per 100 possessions, while allowing an insane 85 per 100 against (2nd all-time in Big East history).
The Wizards were the 8th best team in the NBA defensively, so Porter only makes them even more dangerous on that side of the ball. On offense he adds a dimension as a creator, slasher, and rebounder that will certainly uplift the worst offensive team in the league (yes – that includes the Charlotte Bobcats). By relieving Wall of some ball handling duties, Porter can also bring down the 6th Turnover % in the league. Washington didn’t expect a talent like this to fall into their laps. But this is one of those cases when best player available meets team need and the decision should be quick and confident.
Otto Porter, future Washington Wizard? Time to make it happen.