Not so long ago, the general opinion on Otto Porter could be summed up in one phrase: meh. Then the 2015 playoffs happened, and Porter emerged as the perfect complementary piece alongside the fledgling star backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal. He hit three-pointers, drove to the basket and flustered the opposition with his defense. In essentially his first playoffs – he played a total of six minutes in the 2014 playoffs – he became the 3-and-D guy that every team wants. He seemed poised to follow up on that breakout performance with a strong campaign this season, but thus far, he’s seemingly reverted back to his days of being “meh.”
The first thing to understand in regards to Porter’s disappointing start is his reliance on John Wall. At his best, Porter is spotting up or cutting to the basket around Wall’s pick-and-rolls. Porter isn’t a creator on the offensive end, so he has to be a bit of an opportunist as far as scoring is concerned. Unfortunately for Porter and rest of the Washington Wizards, Wall hasn’t been at his best.
The team is strongly dependent on Wall as a creator, and since he’s been underwhelming, there’s been a trickle-down effect. Porter can’t be the player he’s capable of being unless Wall is. Wall isn’t entirely to blame, but it’s important to realize Porter can’t be a focal point of an offense, at least at this point in his career.
Porter’s scoring averages have risen with his increase in minutes, but his shooting, specifically his three-point shooting, has been abysmal. His field goal percentage is above league average, but Porter’s only hit 26.3 percent of his threes. He isn’t taking bad shots; in fact, most of his three-point attempts are categorized as wide open, with the defender being more than six feet away, per NBA.com. His shooting will probably regress to its past percentage at some point, but that’s not going to help the Wizards in the meantime.
While his shooting has been off, he’s at least succeeded in finding scoring windows near the rim. According to NBA.com, Porter has scored 1.21 points per possession on cuts to the basket. However, he’s notched this scoring rate on a low number of possessions, so it wouldn’t be out of hand to question his skill in finding opportunities to score. His teammates also might not be doing a good job of finding him, so it can go either way in judging his cutting aptitude.
Porter’s offense isn’t what it was expected to be, but his defense has been equally troublesome. He was expected to be a Swiss Army Knife with the ability to defend multiple positions. That was only a projection, but there’s been no hint of that possibility thus far. According to NBA.com, opponents have shot 4.8 percent higher when Porter defends them, and he’s been especially ineffective at defending the three-point shot. Opponents have shot nine percent higher from beyond the arc against Porter, and while there’s some noise with these kinds of stats, that’s certainly not good.
This is a stark contrast from last season when players shot 3.4 percent worse when Porter was their defender. His performance this season can possibly be attributed to the difference in the quality of the players he’s defended. According to Nylon Calculus, 57.6 percent of his minutes came against bench units last year.
Although, that argument doesn’t completely hold up since he played a significant amount of his minutes against starters in the 2015 playoffs, where players shot 7.1 percent worse when he defended them (that could’ve just been a small sample size fluke, of course). Considering the Wizards’ defense as a whole has fallen off since transitioning to more of a small-ball identity, Porter’s defensive issues seem to imply that this is a matter of effort. While it’s disappointing, the situation can be corrected.
It may be not be a desirable answer and somewhat of a cop-out, but Porter’s issues will probably sort themselves out with time. He’s missing most of his threes, but they’re coming on wide-open attempts, so there’s reason to believe that’ll improve.
As for his defense, Porter and the rest of the Wizards need to realize that you can’t take whole games off, let alone a few possessions. Hopefully he and the rest of team realize this before it really costs them.