Washington Wizards: Otto Porter Could Emulate Trevor Ariza In Washington


The Washington Wizards will go as far as John Wall and Bradley Beal can take them. That’s no secret. Over the past several years, though, Ernie Grunfeld has tried to supplement his star back court with a few other young players that could potentially become a part of the team’s core for the long run.

In 2013, Grunfeld had an opportunity to snag a big man that could develop along side the young guards. Both Nerlens Noel and Alex Len were on the board when it was Grunfeld’s turn to pick in 2013, but he opted to go with a familiar face: Georgetown forward Otto Porter.

A lot of people, including myself, questioned the pick. Washington needed a young big man — and still do — but decided to pick Porter, who was labeled the most “NBA ready” player coming out of college.

Following an injury during the NBA Summer League and the slowest healing hip flexor of all time, Porter struggled to adjust to the next level and never cracked the rotation in his rookie season.

Instead, Randy Wittman depended on his veteran wing players for minutes. Trevor Ariza had the best season of his career and Martell Webster was the team’s sixth man, leaving Porter with no playing time.

Porter was unfairly called a “bust” by some, but those who watched him play at Georgetown knew that he had skills that were transferable to the next level.

His movement without the ball, rebounding and length were all tools that were going to make a him a valuable contributor. However, his confidence was shot. When he did get a chance to play, Porter looked overwhelmed and too weak to really find a rhythm.

Fortunately for Washington, a couple of fantastic performances during the summer helped Porter gain the confidence he needed to eventually become a regular in Wittman’s rotation.

After a summer league game, Porter found out about Trevor Ariza’s departure to the Houston Rockets and seemed thrilled about the potential opportunity that had opened up for him. Washington’s brass was confident that Porter would find a spot in the rotation, but wanted an established veteran to fill the void left by Ariza. They went out and signed Paul Pierce, who ultimately started at the small-forward spot.

The next year was essentially a battle involving patience for Porter.

Martell Webster was coming off another back surgery, but Rasual Butler randomly became one of the best shooters in the league during the first half of the season. That shooting wasn’t sustainable and both players eventually fell out of the rotation, which opened the door for Porter. He never looked back.

Porter’s size, athleticism and movement without the ball made him a perfect fit along side the starters. While Pierce did get the bulk of the minutes with Wall and Co., Porter still got plenty of run with the first unit. His play during the end of the season carried over to the NBA Playoffs, where he blossomed on the biggest stage that the league has to offer.

During the playoffs, Porter averaged 10 points and 8 rebounds per game and thrived in Washington’s new small-ball system.

With improved spacing, Porter was used as a decoy by Washington’s back court and often knocked down key shots from the perimeter when the defense collapsed. More importantly, Porter earned minutes by shutting down DeMar DeRozan and Lou Williams during key moments of the game.

All of a sudden, Porter has become a key part of the Washington Wizards’ success and will continue to be going forward.

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Pierce is no longer a Wizard and the team has decided to give Porter the keys to the starting small-forward position.

Virtually everyone on the team, including Wittman, seem to be confident that Porter is going to breakout this upcoming NBA season.

Even though most are optimistic that he will succeed with the first unit and might even be in the conversation for Most Improved Player, there are still some question marks surrounding the change.

Opposing teams are going to eventually recognize Porter’s skill-set and he’s going to be heavily scouted.

We saw what happened when teams started to zero-in on Kevin Seraphin over the past few seasons. The French big man was the Washington Wizards’ secret, but once teams caught on, it became very difficult to utilize Seraphin the same way.

Will the same thing happen to Porter? As of right now, it’s safe to say that Porter is going to find a way to contribute even if defenses become more aware of him.

Like Ariza, Porter brings a certain skill-set on the table that isn’t very dependent on the stat sheet.

Porter is going to remain a threat in transition. He’s improved his three point shot since he entered the league a few seasons ago and he’s a lot more comfortable with the ball in his hands.

We’ll never see Porter become a superstar, but he has the makings of a prototypical “glue guy”…like Trevor Ariza.

Players like Porter are invaluable in the NBA. When Ariza left the Washington Wizards last year, the team lost a player who not only defended the best player on the opposing team, but was a constant threat from the perimeter.

Ariza wasn’t a good three point shooter before he came to the nation’s capital — he shot less than 30% from three in the seasons prior to Washington — but found a groove when he was paired with John Wall.

Both Ariza and Webster benefited from Wall’s passing, especially to the corners. Wall created the most corner three point shots in the league in 2014 — 109 assists created from the corner three. LeBron James had the second most with 89.

Porter is going to find open shots from the corner, especially in transition. When Wall attacks this season, he’s going to have help from the perimeter players. Jared Dudley, Alan Anderson, Gary Neal and Kelly Oubre were all brought in to space the floor for Wall and Beal. Porter is going to find himself open from the corner this season; it’s just a matter of knocking the shot down consistently.

3-and-D players are more valuable than ever in the NBA. If Otto Porter can take advantage of the opportunity this season, just like Ariza did in his two seasons with the Washington Wizards, he’s going to see a huge payday next summer.

If there’s one player Porter should model his game after, it’s Ariza.

Next: Wizards Focused On Improving Spacing, Pace This Season

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