Washington Wizards: Debating Otto Porter’s Impending Max Contract

Mar 3, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) reacts in the third quarter against the Toronto Raptors at Verizon Center. The Raptors won 114-106. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 3, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) reacts in the third quarter against the Toronto Raptors at Verizon Center. The Raptors won 114-106. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter is having a career season and will get the max contract in the off-season. For the Wizards, he’s worth it.

After a well-chronicled rough start to the season, the Washington Wizards have completed an historic turnaround.

Washington has won four straight games on their current west coast road trip, moving up to second place in the Eastern Conference with a 41-24 record. They are sitting just two games behind the first seeded Cleveland Cavaliers.

The arrival of Scott Brooks has coaxed career years from virtually every single player in his rotation.

John Wall has become one of the very best point guards in the entire NBA, putting up career-highs of 23.1 points and 10.8 assists per game. He is locked in defensively and plays with an almost unmatched energy night in and night out.

Bradley Beal is also contributing a career-best 23.2 points while producing at a far more efficient level than any other point in his career.

Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat combine to create a physically imposing front line.

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Bojan Bogdanovic, Jason Smith, and Ian Mahinmi are finally providing the bench with solid contributors.

However, the most unexpected and one of the most important transformations has been that of Otto Porter.

With Wall and Beal, the potential was always obvious.

Wall has been a star in the league for the past four years.

This season he has simply found a better balance between patience and aggression to become one of the most well-rounded players in the game.

For Beal, this jump has been anticipated by the Washington Wizards every year since he has been drafted.

He shown inconsistent flashes of that tantalizing potential. This year it has all come together and he has developed into one of the most versatile scorers in basketball.

When Porter was drafted third overall in 2013, he was seen as a solid, low-risk, low-reward NBA prospect. He had shown strong ability in his two years at Georgetown.

Pundits that he was a solid complimentary piece – a long, athletic slasher who defended and has a high basketball IQ. He shot the ball well from mid-range, but teams feared he didn’t have the range to hit shots consistently from the NBA 3-point line.

His absolute NBA ceiling was reminiscent of a lesser-version of Tayshaun Prince – someone who would be consistent and could create plays, but would never create enough scoring for himself to be a great player.

But in his first three seasons in the NBA, the first of which was cut short by injury and lack of playing time, Porter was not quite athletic enough nor not quite good enough a playmaker to reach his ceiling.

He could have carved out a niche as an athletic slasher, but coming into his contract year, it appeared that Porter was more suited for a bench role than as a starter.

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This season, Porter has completely redesigned his game.

While not veering away from his previous strengths, like scoring in transition or moving without the ball, the Georgetown product became one of the most feared spot-up shooters in the NBA.

After slowly increasing his 3-point percentage in each of his first three seasons, reaching 36.7% last season, Porter has exploded this season, shooting a league-leading 45.5% from long range so far this season.

Alongside a dynamic playmaker like Wall and such a gifted scorer in Beal, having a player who can be dependable and consistently knock down open shots is invaluable.

Porter is also shooting a career-best percentage from two-point shots, while putting up career highs in scoring (14.2) and rebounding (6.6).

This offseason, Porter will become a free agent. It is likely that a team with lots of salary cap space – perhaps one of the Brooklyn Nets and Phoenix Suns – will offer Porter a max contract. It is now widely expected that Washington will match any offer made on their restricted free agent.

This is almost surely the right decision.

Players who fill Porter’s 3-and-D role are incredibly important in today’s NBA, and very few players perform the role better than Porter.

With a core in place, and each player in Washington’s starting five providing a very specific need, it is imperative that Porter remain in the nation’s capital. But once the Washington Wizards lock him up long-term, how good can Porter become?

Compared to most max-contract NBA players, Porter has a low ceiling.

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Despite a sound defensive acumen, Porter is slight of frame and therefore struggles against the NBA’s stronger threes, like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

His size also makes it difficult for him to play the small-ball four, which is an important piece to any successful team today’s NBA.

Offensively, Porter is still somewhat limited.

He doesn’t really create much for himself, off the dribble or in the post.

What he does do is the little things.

He cuts well and finds the open space. He shoots when open, but makes the extra pass when necessary. He runs very hard in transition, making him a perfect sidekick to the blurring speed of Wall.

Porter is not a superstar in the NBA and he never will be. He will probably never be a go-to guy on offense or average more than 15 points per game.

All that means is that he would not be a wise max player for a team like the Nets, who are searching for their one player to build around.

Next: Wizards Have Finally Become an NBA Championship Contender

But for the Washington Wizards, a team that wants to contend for NBA championships, having every piece intact is highly important. Porter provides elements to the game that simply aren’t replaceable.