Washington Wizards 2015-2016 Season Predictions: Otto Porter Will Be In Most Improved Player Discussion


After the Washington Wizards passed on Nerlens Noel for Otto Porter in the 2013 NBA Draft, it was pretty clear that Ernie Grunfeld and Co. were looking to secure the team’s small-forward of the future.

Porter, a former standout at Georgetown, was actually in the discussion for the first overall selection. Of course, looking back, the 2013 NBA Draft wasn’t the best. Anthony Bennett, who was picked first by the Cleveland Cavaliers, has one foot out of the league already.

Following a rough rookie season, many people had already written Otto Porter off.

He suffered a hip injury which sidelined him for most of the Summer League and all of training camp. With Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster getting most of the playing time at the position, Porter was out of Randy Wittman‘s rotation.

When he did play, though, Porter struggled mightily. He was labeled as the most “NBA ready” coming out of college, but he was anything other than prepared for the next level during his rookie year.

While some unfairly called him a bust, those who watched Porter play at Georgetown knew that he had skills that were going to translate to the NBA.

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Last year during Summer League, Porter was obviously a focal point in the Washington Wizards’ offense.

Not only did he put up big numbers alongside Glen Rice Jr., but everything he did looked promising.

Unlike Rice, who forced shots and drew fouls that he failed to get during the regular season, Porter displayed a versatile skill-set and defensive abilities that fit right into the system.

After one of the final Summer League games, Porter found out that Ariza had signed with the Houston Rockets and expressed excitement about potentially getting a boost in playing time.

Instead of letting a second year player start on a playoff-bound team, the Washington Wizards made the right decision in signing Paul Pierce.

Similar to his first season in D.C., Porter didn’t get much playing time from Wittman right out of the gate.

Rasual Butler shot the lights out early in the season and became the team’s second string small-forward. Once Martell Webster returned from back surgery, Porter’s already erratic minutes decreased even more.

Butler’s hot-shooting inevitably declined. When that happened, Webster was given a chance to play. Neither player took advantage of the opportunity, which opened the door for Otto Porter late in the season. After he got a chance to play, Porter never looked back.

It became quickly apparent that Otto Porter had all the tools to become a long-term option for the Washington Wizards at the small-forward or stretch four position.

His ability to run the floor, move without the ball, hit the open jumper and play exceptional defense makes him a perfect fit next to John Wall and Bradley Beal. Porter has never been a stat-sheet stuffer, and quite frankly, he’ll probably never put up numbers that jump off the screen.

Porter is a glue-guy who’s been compared to the likes of Tayshaun Prince and Nicolas Batum. He’s the longest player on the team and he’s undoubtedly the most versatile. Even when he’s not making flashy buckets or a highlight block, Porter finds a way to impact the game by making timely jumpers or defensive stops.

After finding his rhythm late in the season, Porter truly blossomed in the NBA Playoffs. As someone who’s never played big minutes in the NBA, most pundits thought Porter would struggle on the big stage. That obviously wasn’t the case.

Wittman finally decided to play small-ball and Porter thrived as a result. With Wall, Beal and Pierce spacing the floor, Porter had room to operate and do all of the things that made him a top pick just a few seasons ago.

Here’s a look at his regular season stats and playoff stats for comparison:

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Now that Pierce is gone and the Washington Wizards plan on playing more small-ball, expect Otto Porter to start and play 30+ minutes per game.

Even though it might’ve seemed like Wittman despised Porter at the beginning of his career — make no mistake about it — Washington’s coaching staff loves Porter’s game. Now that he’ll get a chance to play his role as the team’s starting small-forward and occasionally the stretch four, we should see Porter take his game to the next level.

If he can put up numbers that are similar to the ones he put up during the playoffs, Porter will undoubtedly be in the conversation for the Most Improved Player award.

Jimmy Butler became the Chicago Bulls’ best player this past season and won the Most Improved Player award as a result. Porter won’t take the leap that Butler took, but if the Washington Wizards continue to be a top team in the Eastern Conference, then people will start to see the growth in his game.

Perhaps more than anyone on the roster, I’m extremely excited to see how well Otto Porter will play this upcoming season.

Having Pierce around for a year was great, but the future Hall-of-Famer did a lot more than just hit clutch shots in the playoffs. He helped Porter become a key to Washington’s success when it mattered most. You can expect that to continue going forward.

Next: Wizards Predictions: Why John Wall Will Lead NBA In Assists

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