This Year’s Otto Porter : TAI Wizards Player Previews 2013-14
[Truth About It.net player previews of Washington Wizards in 2013-14 -- For each player on this year's roster of 15, we take a look at what's at stake, an interesting statistic, and finally, where that player needs to improve (or excel) to make successful contributions toward a playoff goal.]
Eric Maynor via Conor Dirks; Garrett Temple via Adam McGinnis;
Otto Porter via Adam Rubin; Glen Rice, Jr. via Rashad Mobley;
Trevor Ariza via John C. Townsend; Trevor Booker via Adam Rubin;
Al Harrington via Kyle Weidie; Chris Singleton via Adam McGinnis;
Kevin Seraphin via Sean Fagan; Martell Webster via John C. Townsend;
Jan Vesely via Kyle Weidie & Lukas Kuba; Nene Hilario via Rashad Mobley;
Emeka Okafor via Sean Fagan;
Bradley Beal via Kyle Weidie; John Wall via Conor Dirks.
WHAT’S AT STAKE.
The future of the franchise. Just kidding … sort of. If Otto Porter, Jr. is supposed to be Washington’s last high lottery pick of the John Wall era, he must eventually develop into a legitimate third member of a new Big 3 with Wall and Bradley Beal. Washington’s roster has a gaping hole in the front court that will eat up significant cap space next offseason and the team cannot afford to invest any more at the small forward position. To justify his draft position—and the guaranteed salary that comes with it—Porter must show that he is more than a complementary role player with a high basketball IQ.
The good news is that Porter will not be pressured to make an immediate impact. With Martell Webster signed to a long-term deal and Trevor Ariza currently holding down the starting small forward spot, Otto can slowly work his way into the rotation. The bad news is that after an uninspiring summer league debut and a nagging injury that has caused Porter to miss the entire training camp and preseason, the expectations for Porter—often described as the most NBA-ready prospect in the draft—have dropped considerably.
Porter also faces a steep learning curve once he returns to the court. The transition from college to the pros is not easy for most. Even those who have successful rookie campaigns often face early growing pains. As Randy Wittman recently revealed, even Beal—everyone’s favorite second-year breakout candidate—was “scared shitless” at the beginning of last season. Porter will have to work through those issues on the fly without the benefit of training camp. It would have been hard enough as it is for Porter to wrestle meaningful minutes away from Webster and Ariza at small forward and the lack of training camp makes it all the more difficult.
Much has been made of Porter’s improved 3-point accuracy between his freshman and sophomore seasons (23% to 42%). Washington’s offense does not excel at much, but it is among the league leaders in 3-point shooting, especially from the corners. Porter’s ability to extend his range to the NBA 3-point line will be key for him to earn minutes at small forward.
Wall does a great job finding open shooters on the weak-side and his ability to hit guys with cross-court passes off the dribble has become a staple of the Wizards’ half-court offense. Beal and Martell Webster thrive off those open looks. Porter has to do the same because Washington’s offense cannot afford another non-shooter on the court—no matter how good of a facilitator he is. You can be the greatest passer in the world, but if you are setting up Jan Vesely, Trevor Booker and/or Kevin Seraphin for a wide open jumper, it does not do you much good.
From the limited sample size in summer league, mid-range and 3-point shooting does not come naturally to Otto. His shot just looks uncomfortable, like if Kevin Martin and Tayshaun Prince had a kid. If Porter cannot improve his outside shot, it will be hard to find him minutes on a team that is desperate for perimeter scoring. On a positive note, I hear that Otto is a great cutter. This should come in handy when Nene runs the offense through the high post.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT.
Is this a trick question? The public got its first glimpse of Porter in a Wizards uniform during an open practice at the Verizon Center with the summer league team. Porter exited early after tweaking his hamstring. Porter had a second chance to make a first impression a week later in Las Vegas but was shut down with another hamstring injury after two uninspiring summer league games. Training camp has been no better. Porter strained his right hip flexor in a pickup game during voluntary workouts on September 14 and has not been heard from since. A seemingly minor injury has dragged on with no end in sight. So, the first thing Porter must improve is his health. Randy Wittman, prior to the game in Kentucky, said that Porter would get an update from the doctor on Monday. On Monday, Wittman said that Porter would see the doctor “at some point this week.” Even a status report is indeterminate.
As for his on-court performance, Otto’s biggest weakness is … his weakness. If Porter is going to live up to his defense-first billing, he is going to have to bulk up. Porter is skinny, very skinny. He measures 6-foot-9 and 198 pounds. His legs look like tooth picks holding up his lanky frame. That lack of bulk was on full display in summer league. Facing professional competition for the first time in his life, Porter had difficulty establishing position and had the ball ripped right out of his hands a few times. He was clearly outmatched against the Golden State Warriors’ aggressive summer league defense. At Georgetown, Porter was able to compensate for his average lateral quickness and slight build with his extremely long reach. In the NBA, you cannot play defense by reaching. Just ask Jan Vesely. So, while Porter waits for medical clearance to get back on the court, let’s hope he is spending his extra free time in the gym.
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