Wizards Starting Battle: Otto Porter vs. Kelly Oubre | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards Starting Battle: Otto Porter vs. Kelly Oubre

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Updated: October 1, 2016

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Scott Brooks has publicly conveyed that the starting small forward spot for the Washington Wizards is open to competition (1). And by sensible accounts, it’s a two-horse race between Otto Porter, the incumbent but barely, and Kelly Oubre, NBA sophomore-to-be.

This is a good decision, particularly for optics, but also for each individual player. At the close of preseason business, Porter will be the best option. Not because he’s quote-unquote “earned” it by putting in time under Randy Wittman. Not because Porter has come a long way (he has, but not far enough) since a meek, deer-in-truck-headlights rookie year where he managed to travel the first time he ever touched a ball in an official NBA game. And not because starting Oubre would be a bad idea—it could even be best for him as an individual and, at some point, the team.

But it boils down in a cauldron to this: Otto is a lower-maintenance mesh with the starting unit, and Otto is (currently) a better 3-point shooter. Porter’s percentage from deep has improved from 19 percent as a rookie to 33.7 percent to 36.7 percent last season (2). But not to say that Oubre can’t significantly improve from the 31.6 percent (3) he shot as a rookie—much better than Porter’s rookie rate. And generally, the mechanics of Oubre’s shot have looked better than Porter’s. Worth noting that Porter shot 36.8 percent from deep when he was open (defender within 4-6 feet) or wide open (closest defender beyond six feet), while Oubre shot 31.9 percent from those ranges (4). Who knows how much any of Oubre’s inconsistency from 3-point land had to do with rookie jitters and playing in many garbage situations.

Also in Oubre’s favor, he’s the more tenacious rebounder, particularly the defensive end (5). But Porter is the better passer and more crafty, selective when it comes to deflections and stealing the ball from opponents. Porter is also the safe option at this juncture, averaging a combined 5.0 turnovers plus fouls per 100 possessions last season to Oubre’s combined number of 9.8.

Not that these Wizards need a “safer” option. They need to be bold. They need to be disruptive. The need to have some nuts, some moxie, some gusto—intangibles that probably sway the eye test in Oubre’s favor. But this helps us unpack that first part above: low-maintenance Otto. If a starting lineup featuring talent in John Wall, Bradley Beal, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat needs a firebrand like Oubre to make them tick then they may already be defeated (melodramatic as that may seem).

It feels cliché to write but a revamped Wizards bench needs a hungry Oubre in its cache. And a starting lineup looking to define itself needs a guy like Otto who knows when to cut and when to stay out of the way, and who can more reliably hit the open shots which will be a product of playing with Wall and Beal. The two are fairly close in defensive capability (6), so being a knock-down, floor-spreading jump shooter could be more important, but it might come down to if Porter can be a better on-ball defender and if Oubre can just defend without fouling.

Slightly bigger picture: the open competition is a great move. It signals that Brooks is as close as possible to starting fresh with his players; it signals a good ol’ thump to Otto’s chest, Paul Pierce style; it signals to Oubre that well-channeled hunger means an increased chance to shine (and that he should keep at it if he doesn’t win the job). And if Oubre does win the job, it’s a signal that the Wizards might have more depth to the season’s painting than most might anticipate.

The Wizards starting five will be determined in a court of basketball this early autumn, but at least for this pre-trial hearing, this writer, with a dash of skepticism, is on #TeamOtto.

What say you?


  1. Really, are we still calling it “small forward” as opposed to, more accurately and culturally relevant, a “3”?
  2. Porter shot 52-164 (31.7%) on 3-pointers in 44 games before the All-Star break last season but then 46-103 (44.7%) on 3-pointers in 31 games after the break.
  3. Oubre shot 13-24 from deep in December, a month in which he played 14 games, starting five; Oubre shot 12-55 over all other months, including a 3-14 November and 5-20 January.
  4. Although, Oubre did shoot 18-for-36 (50%) when wide open last season (no defender within six feet).
  5. Otto is nearly two inches taller at around 6-foot-9 but Kelly, 6-foot-7, has a longer wingspan by about an inch (7’2″ to 7’1″).
  6. Worth referencing, however, that Porter ranked 11th among small forwards in Defensive Real Plus-Minus last season (+1.17), just after Paul George, while Oubre ranked 54th (-0.94).
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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.