Wizards: In defense of drafting Otto over Giannis

Washington Wizards, Otto Porter (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Washington Wizards, Otto Porter (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

In 2013, the Washington Wizards drafted Otto Porter at No. 3 over Giannis Antetokounmpo, but here’s why that was justified at the time.

Let’s start this off by acknowledging the obvious: Giannis Antetokounmpo is a better player than Otto Porter, and the Washington Wizards would be better off had they selected Antetokounmpo in the 2013 NBA Draft before the Milwaukees Bucks did (assuming he developed in the same way, which is a big if).

But the debut of the TNT documentary “Finding Giannis” over the weekend coupled with the recent trade with the Chicago Bulls has led to a bit of revisionist history and criticism over the Wizards’ decision to draft Porter with the No. 3 overall pick that year, while Antetokounmpo dropped to No. 15 to the Bucks.

While there’s no denying that Antetokounmpo has exceeded Porter as a player, the Wizards made the reasonable pick in that draft for two reasons.

Firstly, hindsight is 20/20, and Porter was the safer bet at the time. No one could have reasonably said that Antetokounmpo was guaranteed to become the MVP-level player he developed into in Milwaukee.: He was raw, and scouts had limited evaluation of his talent against high-caliber competition.

That draft was also a remarkably weak draft class, even in retrospect. The Cleveland Cavaliers selected Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 overall pick. Philadelphia 76ers guard Michael Carter-Williams was the Rookie of the Year.

Furthermore, only one player other in that draft other than Antetokounmpo has been an All-Star: No. 2 pick Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers, and that was after two previous stints with the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder. The only other All-NBA talent in that draft was Rudy Gobert, who the Utah Jazz selected at No. 27.

Even most of the rest of the top 10 after Porter hardly inspires confidence (Cody Zeller, Alex Len, Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Trey Burke) until No. 10 with CJ McCollum.

And while some may argue that the Wizards could have gambled on Antetokounmpo as an intriguing prospect, keep in mind where the team was in that point in time. This was their third top-three draft pick in four seasons (John Wall at No. 1 in 2010; Bradley Beal at No. 3 in 2012), and the franchise was ready to make the leap to contention.

Coming off of a productive season at Georgetown, Porter represented the type of low-risk prospect that the team was searching for at the time. His ceiling may not have been too high, but his floor was higher than most of the other prospects. Positionally, he made sense too: The team had the backcourt of the future in Wall and Beal, so a rangy wing who could shoot next to them was the perfect complement.

The Wizards were largely proven right. They made the playoffs during Porter’s rookie season, and only missed the postseason once in his five-plus seasons with the team before the trade with the Bulls earlier this month.

Again, a side-by-side comparison at this stage is going to clearly favor Antetokounmpo over Porter, but there’s no assurance that Antetokounmpo would have reached these heights in Washington. The fact that the Bucks weren’t in the lottery and had clinched the playoffs that season showed they could be patient with Antetokounmpo’s development.

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The Bucks took a chance in 2013 with Antetokounmpo and it is paying off. The Wizards made a sober and reasonable pick with Porter, and benefitted from it as well.