How Otto Porter Came Out of Nowhere and What His Contribution Means to the Wizards
While guys like John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Marcin Gortat will receive plenty of attention in light of the Washington Wizards’ unexpected first-round sweep over the surprisingly submissive Toronto Raptors, it’s important to make sure the emergence of one Otto Porter doesn’t go unnoticed.
If you forgot about Porter prior to this year’s playoffs, you’re likely a part of the larger crowd. After being selected by Washington third overall in 2013, Porter battled the injury bug early in his rookie season and proceeded to log just 319 minutes all year thanks to a slow start and better veterans ahead of him in the rotation.
Heading into Porter’s sophomore season, while the loss of Trevor Ariza to free agency assured an uptick in minutes, the addition of Paul Pierce all but solidified Porter’s role as a bench player. Pierce was not only the better player but also the more trusted one to help the Wizards fight through the regular season. And while the idea may be to have a third overall draft pick contribute right away, Porter actually found himself in an ideal scenario this season -- spelling a savvy veteran at his position and learning the little things as he went along.
Porter showed glimpses of good throughout the season but nothing that would consistently stick. Although his potential on defense was more easily noticeable, his shooting was a bit wobbly, and we all remember that time in early March when he fell asleep (perhaps literally) against the Bulls and temporarily set Twitter on fire with lots of comments and exclamations, most of which included the expression “BRUH!”
But as they say, playoff time is a new season, a clean slate. And through the first four games of the new season, Porter is picking an opportune time to contribute to the Wizards’ goals of conquering the Eastern Conference.
Porter in the Playoffs
After a lot of frustrating offense throughout the regular season, Wizards head coach Randy Wittman surprised just about everyone with his tactics and strategy throughout his team’s first-round matchup with the Raptors. Despite fans and hoops enthusiasts nearly chanting for Pierce to see time at the four spot over the last few months, Wittman finally seemed to read the comments section and used Pierce as a stretch four against Toronto, in turn setting the stage for more Porter at small forward.
From a raw offensive production standpoint, Porter was a new man, finishing the series with a Net Rating of plus-29, averaging 9.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He shot just under 56 percent from the field thanks in large part to a sweet touch around the basket, and knocked down 5 of his 10 three-point attempts over the four games. And after averaging fewer than 20 minutes per game during the regular season, Porter averaged 32 in his most recent playoff series, committing just two turnovers in 128 total minutes.
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Even more impressive was Porter’s efficiency on the other end of the floor, which helped provide Washington with a boost. In addition to posting a strong Defensive Rating (99) and averaging better than a steal per game (1.3), Porter also held his opponents to just 31 percent from the field, while also helping to lower the Raptors’ Offensive Rating from 108 to just 93 with him in the game (the best Net Defensive Rating of any player on Washington’s roster).
And to demonstrate Porter’s rise come playoff time even further, here’s a quick split between the regular season and his performance against the Dinos.
Porter elevated his game by virtually every measure in the opening series against Toronto.
Forecasting Porter’s ascent from here provides a little bit of difficulty depending on how you look at it. From a long-term perspective, it’s easy to assume his recent play is a huge step in the right direction in terms of both experience and confidence. He’s seen good minutes on the big stage and he’s proved to himself and his teammates that he can deliver on both ends of the floor. It may sound crazy, but perhaps the Wizards have a slightly larger nucleus than they thought.
In terms of the next round, Porter has probably taken a rooting interest in Brooklyn. The Nets’ surprising resiliency has somehow gridlocked their first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks at 2-2, and going against guys like Joe Johnson and Bojan Bogdanovic has a better ring to it than hoping for Kyle Korver to stay cool and trying to keep up with DeMarre Carroll. That said, neither team seems especially lethal at the moment.
The most important thing to remember at this stage in Porter’s career is the fact that he’s just 21 years old and has shown foundational talent on both ends. The sample size isn’t large enough at this point, but a quality first-round series would seem to be enough to get the ball rolling on Porter’s potential moving forward.