A Further Look at Otto Porter’s Summer League Performance and Athletic Reputation
Should we be concerned about Otto Porter’s lacking athleticism, especially after his brief showing in Las Vegas?
Per John Converse Townsend’s piece on Porter and trends in NBA athleticism, it’s a valid issue. Players—more so in the past and perhaps less in the future, can overcome athleticism with skill and smarts—but being a natural athlete makes it’s so much easier. It’s the number one thing that separates the pros from the Joes who never make it past college. (Do I need to mention that Adam Morrison has just retired from the NBA to become a student assistant as his alma mater, Gonzaga? He was named co-player of the year by the USBWA with J.J. Redick just in 2006. Great college scorer, Morrison was, but overwhelmed by the athletic defenders of the NBA. Morrison was selected by Michael Jordan third overall, just like Porter, in an extremely weak 2006 draft.)
Otto Porter is not an athlete. His body will improve, and maybe he hasn’t grown into it. But what’s apparent is that high-level athleticism doesn’t come naturally for him.
This is where I wonder about athleticism in general. How much a part of it is reaction time? A lot, I imagine—muscle twitches, changes in direction, and the ability to make a second jump quickly. But what about reaction time in terms of anticipation, or at least in terms of one’s mind growing accustomed to telling their limbs when and how to move. I’m sure there’s some science to all of this. I’m sure some relevant and useful data can be gleaned from those missile-tracking cameras from SportVU that the Wizards and other NBA teams are using.
How much will with the development of Porter’s mental reaction time, his killer instincts, compensate for what seems to be middling athleticism? How much will those areas improve going forward? Townsend is right, the NBA is continuing to get faster with better athletes—even to this day compared to a decade ago. Franchise-builders are also realizing the benefit of being the fastest and what it can do for a team aiming to
eke out as many possessions as possible in a chase against a clock. Hence, the construction around John Wall in Washington.
Such trends are also reflected in why raw guards like Reggie Jackson can come in and have big a big impact (and do a commendable job filling in for Russell Westbrook), and why Eric Bledsoe is so coveted. Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough on his new stud acquisition, the guy who played in John Wall’s shadow at Kentucky (and the guy who out-shined Wall at certain points last season): “I hope he can be [a star]. He’s not yet. But I’d say all of us, myself included, are very excited to see what he’ll become.” But both Bledsoe and Wall can only improve if they apply smarts to their inherent ability.
The NBA is also about spacing and pace. Just watch the San Antonio Spurs, or even the Miami Heat (excellent spacing teams). Or simply consider what the experts say that every single point guard ever coming into the league needs to learn (pace). Build around athletes like Wall, but teams also need guys who can master balancing nuances. We still don’t know if Porter can master nuance, as beyond athleticism, his lack of aggressiveness in Las Vegas has raised some red flags.
Worth noting: Beal may have struggled himself as a summer leaguer in Vegas, a tad, and he may have been the benefit of some star calls there, but he also averaged 7.2 free throw attempts per game in his five 2012 Summer League appearances.
As a college freshman, however, Beal averaged 5.5 free throw attempts per 40 minutes (pace adjusted) and shot 76.9 percent from the charity stripe. Porter averaged 3.4 FTAs per pace adjusted 40 minutes as a freshman (70.2% shooting) and 5.7 FTAs as a sophomore (77.7%). [stats via DraftExpress.com]
Amongst NBA rookies who played in at least 41 games last season, Bradley Beal ranked 13th in free throw attempts per 40 minutes at 3.6 (via Basketball-Reference.com). Amongst other rookies who appeared in 41 or more games, Kent Bazemore averaged 6.6, Dion Waiters 4.9, Damian Lillard 4.1, Harrison Barnes 3.7, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 3.7 fared better than Beal.
So in some senses, Beal needs to improve upon converting possessions into free points just as much as Porter will need to, even though Beal entered the NBA with the reputation of being tough enough to will his way to the rim, and Porter didn’t.
With much caveat, Draft Express, as Townsend cites in his post, ranked 2012 draft hopefuls according to their NBA Chicago Draft Combine athletic testing. It’s an uncertain window of numbers, always, but any numbers are worth a review, always. Otto Porter ranked 38 out of 52 players. Teammate Glen Rice, Jr. ranked 9th and provided a number of highlight dunks in Vegas.
So for posterity’s sake, let’s take a deeper dive into some of Porter’s individual measurements and timings and compare them to other historical measurements using Draft Express’s database.
Porter measured 6’7.5” without shoes in Chicago.
According to Draft Express’s historical measurements, Porter’s wingspan is 0.9 inches longer than the average for his height. His standing reach is 0.4 inches shorter on average. So Porter’s length generally passes the test… or at least he doesn’t have alligator arms.
Otto Porter’s Wingspan: 7’1.5” (average for height: 7’0.4”)
Let’s take a look at others who have the same 7’1.5” wingspan as Porter (and their heights without shoes in parenthesis):
- Enes Kanter (6’9.75” without shoes)
- Nick Collison (6’8.75”)
- Ronny Turiaf (6’8”)
- Danny Granger (6’7.5”)
- Derrick Williams (6’7.25”)
- Paul Millsap (6’6.25”)
Let’s also look at some players whose wingspan is a quarter-inch shorter than Porter’s (7’1.25”):
- Joakim Noah (6’10.5” without shoes)
- Jeff Green (6’7.75”)
- Tristan Thompson (6’7.5”)
- Draymond Green (6’5.75”)
Noah’s wingspan is surprisingly small for his defensive abilities.
Otto Porter’s Standing Reach: 8’9.5” (average for height: 8’9.9”)
Players with the same 8’9.5” standing reach as Porter (heights without shoes):
- Cody Zeller (6’10” without shoes)
- Troy Murphy (6’9.75”)
- Matt Bonner (6’8.5″)
- Carmelo Anthony (6’6.25”)
- Paul Millsap (6’6.25”)
- Shaun Livingston (6’6.25”)
- Andre Igoudala (6’5.75”)
- Josh Howard (6’5.25”)
Hand length and width is a recently tracked measurement and only available on DraftExpress.com since 2010. But, as goes the tale (moral?) of Kwame Brown, having tiny hands is a curse and never a blessing, unless you need to reach a tiny snack stuck in the vending machine.
Otto Porter’s Hand Length: 8.75″
This is the same as Victor Oladipo, Ben McLeMore, Greg Monroe, Tobias Harris, and Evan Turner (and 0.25″ larger than Paul George, Eric Bledsoe, Kenneth Faried, Norris Cole, Gordon Hayward, Bradley Beal, Markieff Morris, and Tomas Satoransky).
Otto Porter’s Hand Width: 9.25″
Same as Oladipo, Tristan Thompson, Klay Thompson, Gordon Hayward, Greivis Vasquez, and Derrick Favors (and 0.25″ larger than Jordan Crawford, Paul George, Tobias Harris, Iman Shumpert, and Bradley Beal).
Does Otto Porter have the hands of a guard? (Does Greg Monroe have the hands of a guard?) Maybe Porter’s hands are big enough, but if Summer League emphasized anything, his hands need to be a lot stronger. Item No. 2 on Porter’s summer workout plan: finger-tip push-ups. (Item No. 1 is getting hit repeatedly by dummy pads while driving to the basket.)
Otto Porter’s Sprint Time: 3.40 seconds
This was the same time as Tyler Zeller, Draymond Green, Joe Johnson, and Jared Jeffries—not a bunch of athletes. Porter tested slightly slower than Martell Webster and Andre Dummond (3.39); as well as Channing Frye, Josh Childress, and Tiago Splitter (3.38). Sorta yikes.
Porter tested slightly faster than Trey Thompkins, Luke Harangody, Taj Gibson, and Coby Karl (3.41). Not encouraging // Quick ain’t fair.
Quick is a list like this: John Wall (3.14), OJ Mayo (3.14), James Harden (3.13), Ty Lawson (3.12), Trevor Booker (3.10), Mike Conley (3.09), Dwyane Wade (3.08), and Nate Robinson (2.96). Guys like Paul Millsap, Chris Bosh, Mike Dunleavy, Danny Green, Charlie Villanueva and Shane Battier all tested out in the 3.30 range.
Otto Porter’s Agility Time: 11.25 seconds
Slightly faster than Jerryd Bayless (11.26), Ben Gordon (11.28), Enes Kanter (11.30), Danny Green (11.30), Jimmy Butler (11.30), Darko Milicic (11.30), and Dan Grunfeld (11.30).
Slightly slower than Shelvin Mack (11.23), Troy Murphy (11.22), and Dwight Howard (11.21).
Harrison Barnes put up a 10.93 on the agility test; Blake Griffin a 10.95; John Wall a 10.84; and Victor Oladipo a 10.69.
There are four ways Draft Express tracks the ability to jump: no-step vertical, no-step vertical reach, max vertical, and max vertical reach. For Porter’s comparisons, I’m only going to use no-step vertical reach, since much of the game is about the highest point one can reach at the fastest rate possible (and oftentimes without momentum).
Otto Porter’s No Step Vertical Reach: 11’0.5”
Look at some of the “athletes” on this list (aside from the guards)… but measuring most closely to Dom McGuire isn’t necessarily a negative (not a positive for a third pick, either).
- Kelly Olynyk (6’10.75” without shoes)
- Brian Scalabrine (6’8.75”)
- Drew Gooden (6’8”)
- Dominic McGuire (6’7.75”)
- Eduardo Najera (6’6.5”)
- DeJuan Blair (6’5.25”)
- Tyreke Evans (6’4”)
- Jordan Crawford (6’3”)
Further comparison tools…
The website StatSheet.com calculates their own “Similarity Score” to compare college players. Per Stat Sheet (full explanation of exact metrics used here):
“Moving beyond a player’s per-game averages, this metric analyzes how he accumulates his numbers. Is he a high-usage/low-efficiency scorer or a low-usage/high-efficiency one? Does he do most of his damage from behind the 3-point arc, at the free throw line, or on 2-point field goals? How much of an impact does pace/tempo have on his box score numbers?”
The closest comparison to Porter’s sophomore season at Georgetown (versus all Big East players since 1996):
Jared Dudley‘s sophomore season at Boston College, 2004-05 (92.6%).
Porter’s college experience also closely compares to Da’Sean Butler, WVU, 2009-10 (92.5%); Jae Crowder, Marquette, 2011-12 (92.4%); and Brandon Bowman, Georgetown, 2004-05 (91.9%).
Not exactly encouraging, for what it’s worth. But worth mentioning that Dudley, after his senior year with the Eagles in 2007, was named the ACC Player of the Year and was a second team All-American. He saw heavy minutes as a freshman and from that season (1.7 3-point attempts per 40 minutes pace adjusted, 31.6% 3-point shooting), Dudley improved his 3-point shooting to 44.3 percent on 2.9 attempts per 40 minutes (pace adjusted) by the time he was a senior.
Over the past four NBA seasons (all spent with Phoenix), Dudley ranks 6th best in 3-point percentage (41.3%) amongst 76 NBA players who have played in at least 150 games and attempted at least 800 3-pointers over that span [via Basketball-Reference.com].
Otto Porter is not a supreme athlete, at least not now, if ever, and it’s something to keep an eye on. But comparatively speaking, some of his tools aren’t that different from others who have found success in the NBA. What this might most mean—and remember, conclusion from measurements always comes with doses of conjecture—is that Porter has greater challenges ahead of him than generally anticipated. In other words, Porter might not necessarily be the most NBA-ready.
The ultimate saving grace might be the development of Porter’s 3-point shot. The Wizards are banking that he can improve like he did between his freshman and sophomore seasons when he went from shooting 22.6 percent on 2.2 attempts per 40 minutes (pace adjusted) to shooting 42.2 percent on 3.9 attempts per 40 minutes (pace adjusted). If Porter can improve his shooting like the aforementioned Dudley has over time, then selecting him so high becomes more justified, as Porter provides much more talent potential
in other areas than Dudley.
The gist of the story is that Otto Porter is as much of a gamble as any player the Wizards could have drafted. You just hope that they have dug deep enough below the surface, particularly in terms of personality testing, dedication evaluation, and aptitude toward improvement (to the extent those concepts can be measured and to the extent that the Wizards are trying to do such). Porter, athletically, compares to others who have found and continue to find success in increasingly athletic NBA. But will he overcome the natural limits of his body with his ability to develop otherwise in Washington? That’s the big risk the Wizards are willing to take.