Is Re-Signing Otto Porter Otto-Matic?

May 15, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) shoots the ball over Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) during the second half in game seven of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
May 15, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) shoots the ball over Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) during the second half in game seven of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

Washington Wizards starting small forward Otto Porter has a big offseason ahead of him. He is a restricted free agent, coming off his best season in the NBA, and is expected to receive a max contract (or close to it). With how successful the Wizards’ season went, it seems like a given that he’ll be back on the team. But is that really the Case?

I think we all can agree that Otto Porter is a good player, a player who has improved every season in the NBA. He’s the type of glue guy that all teams should want, a player who can contribute without having plays called for him, runs the floor, moves without the basketball, and has developed into a lights out shooter. Where the consensus seems to end is how much is that worth to the Washington Wizards and should they pay the price.

Let’s start there; Otto Porter is entering the summer as a restricted free agent, having just completed the fourth year of his rookie contract and will be one of the top free agents available on the market.

As a restricted free agent, the Wizards will have the ability to match any offer Otto receives from another team  The Wizards can agree to a deal with Otto on their own accord, can match an offer, can sign and trade Otto (more complex and rare), or lastly, simply let him walk if they find the financial obligation too steep.

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The Wizards absolutely should not let Otto Porter walk because there’s no benefit to doing so.  The Wizards have $89MM in salary obligations for the 2017-2018 season, not including Otto Porter’s cap hold.

With a projected salary cap of $102MM, even if you completely wipe away any salary or hold towards Otto Porter, it would leave Washington with between $10-$11MM to fill out the roster (due to other cap holds).

Based on the free agent market last year, it would take extreme fortune for Washington to replace the production they got out of Otto Porter at that price tag.

Even in that case, Washington would only be replacing Otto’s production, not adding to or improving a team that is looking to build on a season the concluded with a game 7 loss to the Eastern Conference number one seed in the conference semifinals.

Otto Porter would be difficult to replace given how much he brings to the table. Porter is a winning type of basketball player. He’s the type of player that just fits into the fabric of a team, playing an unselfish role at a high efficiency level.

The Wizards starting lineup which included Otto Porter logged 1,347 minutes on the floor with a Net Rating of 8.1 per Per, Otto Porter had an ORtg (points produced per 100 possessions) of 129 and a net rating of +21, both highest amongst the Wizards starting five.

Otto was 5th in the NBA in three-point field goal percentage at 43.4%. He had a 2.75 assist to turnover ratio and a TS% of 62.8.  If you watched every game this season it would be difficult to identify more than a handful of obvious mistakes made by Otto Porter and he blends in seamlessly with John Wall and Bradley Beal.

The Otto Porter detractors however will focus on the fact that while he is good, he doesn’t offer the potential upside you would want to invest a max or near max contract in.  He’s not the type of player that can anchor the second unit offensively or step in as a second option if John Wall and Bradley Beal were to miss any time.

In fact in the five games that either Beal, Wall, or both missed (with the exception of the last game of the regular season), Porter averaged a mere 11.2 ppg on a field goal percentage of 37.9%.  There are other legitimate questions about Otto Porter as he continues to develop in the NBA.

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After the All-Star break, in 25 games, Otto Porter averaged 10.8 ppg and saw his three-point field goal percentage drop to 34.1%.

Some of this decline was a result of a minutes decrease after the acquisition of Bojan Bogdanovic but it does lead one to ask, did the league figure out Otto Porter?

Was his pre-All-Star break play a result of teams leaving him open and focusing their defensive attention on John Wall and Bradley Beal?  Was his shooting slump and decrease in field goal attempts a result of him not being able to get off a shot or clean looks as a result of the attention he was now drawing or just part of the standard ups and downs that occur during an 82 game regular season?

The playoffs didn’t offer a reprieve as Otto Porter’s three-point shooting fell to 28.2% over 13 games.  His overall field goal percentage was a healthy 53.2% but his shooting slump from behind the arc factored into Washington being tied for 11th amongst 16 playoff teams in three-point field goals made per game.

Aggression is an intangible and cannot be measured but when a team is potentially going to invest $100MM plus into a player, it has to be eyebrow raising when a player has zero points in an elimination game like Otto did in Game 6 versus the Boston Celtics.

In fact in six of Washington’s 13 playoff games, Otto Porter took 7 FGA or less.  Otto Porter is a different player when he’s aggressive and engaged.

In the 16 games in which Otto Porter took 13 FGA per game or more, he averaged 20.4 points on 14.6 attempts per game.  In those games he maintained a FG% of 53.8% and a 3-pt % of 44.7%.  Why can’t this Otto Porter appear more often? It’s somewhat difficult to answer that as Otto Porter’s offense is more dependent on those who create around him, but for a player who has proven to be as productive and efficient as he has, you’d like to see consistent aggression.

Defensively Otto Porter is disruptive in the passing lanes, but doesn’t offer the individual man defense this team needs. As noted by Hoopshype in their Free Agent look, Otto Porter’s opponents improved their three-point shooting by 4.8% with him as the primary defender.

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Lateral quickness seems to be a weakness for Otto and perhaps forces Otto Porter to compensate by giving more room to opposing wings; thus leading to a higher field goal percentage.

Lastly, we’ve seen the Wizards play musical chairs at the small forward position during the John Wall era and everyone who has manned that position has thrived as a shooter.

  • 2012-2013 – Martell Webster started 62 games and averaged a career high 11.4 ppg on 42.2% shooting from the three point line;
  • 2013-2014 – Trevor Ariza started 77 games, averaging 14.4 ppg (2nd highest total in his career), and shot 40.7% from the three-point line (Career high);
  • 2014-2015 – Paul Pierce started 73 games and shot 38.9% from the three-point line, his highest percentage since his 2009-2010 all-star season;
  • 2015-2016 – Jared Dudley was primarily a stretch 4 in Washington but in his one season in Washington which included 41 starts; he shot 42% from the three-point line, the second highest percentage in his career.

Overall, Otto Porter’s season eclipsed that of any of the above and at 23 years old, offers potential for continued growth and maturation in his game. However is it wise to invest $20-$25MM per season in a player to play a role that others, at far less cost have excelled in playing alongside John Wall?

Taking that one step further, John Wall’s contract is up in two seasons; would Washington want to be hampered by a potentially less productive Otto Porter making nearly 25% of the salary cap if they were to lose their franchise point guard in free agency?

The situation with Otto Porter and the Wizards is tricky.  As a homegrown draft pick and an improving, effective player on a very productive starting five, the 23 year old seems to check every box in terms of players a team would like to retain and build around.

That being said, given his limitations is it worth the max or near max contract it would take to retain him?  If the Wizards sign Otto Porter to a deal in the $20-$25MM per year range, the Wizards will have approximately 60% to 65% of the projected $102MM salary cap allocated to John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter, and that’s before a potential John Wall “super max” contract which would account for 35% of the salary cap.

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Those three would be the core that the Wizards front office believes can push past Cleveland (and Boston) in the Eastern Conference and make it to the NBA Finals.  There would be no room for another max free agent down the road.  Is that top heavy core, surrounded by complimentary players enough to pose a legitimate threat to Lebron James in the East and the Golden State Warriors out West?

The Wizards front office has to determine if Otto Porter is the 3rd piece in a ‘Big 3’ or if he is in fact a complimentary player who is in position to get max money based on his free agency coinciding with a spiking salary cap in the NBA.

Say they determine he isn’t. As mentioned previously, because Washington is already above the cap, simply letting Otto Porter walk doesn’t equate to having $25MM in spending money.

The front office will have to be creative and find a way to replicate Otto’s production using the CBA tools in place while building on the success of the ’16-’17 season and maintaining flexibility to add to the roster moving forward. If they determine he is, the Wizards front office has their Big 3 in place and the emphasis will be on how to add to the core that is here with limited cap flexibility moving forward.  They’ll also need pre All-Star break Otto Porter to be the norm.

The Wizards face a difficult decision; with Lebron James still in control of the Eastern Conference and the Boston Celtics sitting on the number one pick on top of the best regular season record in the Eastern Conference, the path to the O’Brien Trophy will be difficult.

Next: John Wall Is Right to Ask to See the Bigger Picture This Offseason

The Wizards front office will have to be creative (and lucky) to navigate the cap and surround the core with the help necessary to achieve their ultimate goal. The question as we enter the offseason; is Otto Porter part of that plan and at what cost?