It’s been a bumpy ride thus far for Otto Porter in his young NBA career. After the Wizards hit lottery luck in May and moved up to the 3rd spot in the draft, pundits immediately slotted the Georgetown product to stay local and be selected by Washington. Although the team did listen to offers for the pick as well as work out a number of players, Ernie Grunfeld went ahead and drafted Porter to complete a mini-big 3 with John Wall and Bradley Beal. However, Porter has not gotten a chance to showcase what he can do, as he suffered injuries both in a short summer league stint as well as during training camp (the latter of which caused him to miss the entire preseason). Given the depth the Wizards have at the small forward spot, Porter can take his time to acclimate both to the league as well as the team’s offense. But he’ll have to do major catch up work to make up for lost time. Here’s what we need to see from Porter this year to make sure the upcoming season isn’t a lost one.
Staying on the court:
This one is pretty self-explanatory and is mentioned in the above paragraph. Porter is currently nursing a phantom hip flexor injury that was initially listed as day-to-day and seems to have a longer recovery time than Emeka Okafor’s herniated disc. Once Porter does get back on the floor, he’ll quickly realize that his wiry 198 lb. frame is going to take a lot more beating than it did during his days in the Big East. He should follow the model set by his NBA doppledanger in Tayshaun Prince who managed to stay healthy for the majority of his career without much muscle for padding. The key for Porter will be to pick his spots when it comes to rebounding and attacking the basket. Hopefully early indicators of his durability are the exception and not the rule but worry is starting to set in.
It’s well known how destructive of a defender Porter was at Georgetown. He finished his sophomore year with a Defensive Rating of 85 points per 100 possessions, and rated 7th in the country in defensive win shares. Some of that success could be attributed to John Thompson III’s schemes but there’s no doubting Porter’s role as an anchor of the team. From the extremely small sample size we saw in Las Vegas this summer, Porter wasn’t able to dominate in the same manner. He struggled to stay in front of quicker players and was overmatched physically by bigger forwards. He teetered into the dangerous territory of being a tweener and has to excel at angles and effort if his athleticism doesn’t produce the same results as his collegiate days.
One of the issues with building a team of shooters around one primary ball handler is that when said ball handler is not in the game, other players are not equipped to manage ball handling duties. John Wall is going to run the show for 36-38 minutes a night but someone else has to be available to serve as a second focal point of the offense. It’s been a pleasant surprise to see Bradley Beal show a much tighter handle and some creativity off the pick and roll this preseason. Porter is also an adept passer and having him on the floor should improve ball movement and get the team more easy buckets. Given that he ran the Princeton offense for two years, Porter is very much used to running the offense from somewhere other than the top of the key. If he can pick up Randy Wittman’s sets early on, he’ll provide a dimension not offered by either Trevor Ariza or Martell Webster.
Despite the rough start in Washington for Otto Porter, optimism and excitement remains high for Wizards fans. If he pans out, the Wizards will have 3 starters locked down for the next 10 years. At the very least, his rookie year should provide a lot of learning opportunities and hopefully a good bit development. He may not ever be a 20 point scorer or the alpha dog on a contender. But with Wall and Beal in tow, Porter might be the exact type of glue guy needed to keep the wheels moving. But for anything to happen, Porter will first have to trade in his suit for for a jersey, heal up and get back onto the court.