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Otto Porter is Ready to Forge a Big 3 in Washington

Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports

The third pick by Washington in 2013, Otto Porter Jr. was a prospect many deemed to be “NBA ready.” Some nagging injuries slowed him down, but in reality, Porter contributed next to nothing for most of his first two seasons. He’s played just over 1,700 career minutes, or the equivalent of about 21 minutes per game over one 82-game season. It wasn’t until this past playoffs that Porter showed Washington coach Randy Wittman and the NBA world what he’s capable of doing.

Porter played more minutes than any Wizards player besides Bradley Beal in the postseason. He notched 10 points and eight boards a night in that stretch on 44.3 percent shooting. He knocked down a solid 37.5 percent from three and at many times was a real threat when left open. Converting those triples is essential, but Porter really showed his offensive value with constant crashes on the offensive boards. He grabbed an impressive 2.4 a game in the playoffs. That was especially crucial when Washington ran small lineups with more shooting that took Marcin Gortat or Nene off the floor.

More importantly for Washington, Porter was a menace on the defensive end. While earlier in the season his inattentiveness provided all-time classic fodder for Shaqtin’ a Fool, Porter showed off lightning speed in the playoffs that allows him to close gaps surprisingly fast on defense. He’s already good at using his body to make driving the lane more difficult and generally disrupt the flow of his man. Porter looks to have the making of an extremely high-level wing defender going forward.

Porter’s prototypical 3-and-D contributions against both Toronto and Atlanta cemented his spot in the Wizards’ core going forward. When Washington drafted him out of Georgetown, he was expected to be a perfect complement to their other young stars. Two deathly quiet seasons had seemingly quelled that expectation. The huge playoff performance thus came seemingly out of nowhere, but if you look closely enough, the signs were all there.

After playing only 319 total minutes his rookie season, Porter appeared in 74 games in 2014-15, playing 19.4 minutes a night. The Wizards signed Paul Pierce away from Brooklyn, where he’d helped unlock both the team’s and his own potential by sliding down to power forward. Most expected Pierce to play a lot of 4 in Washington as Porter slowly took the reins on the wing.

In fact, Wittman chose to play The Truth at small forward for the vast majority of the time — per Basketball-Reference, Pierce only played six percent of his minutes at power forward. It wasn’t until Wittman rested Pierce down the stretch that Porter showed close observers what he was capable of doing against playoff teams in real minutes.

In eight regular-season games in April, Porter averaged 29.5 minutes, a huge increase from where he was at. In that time, the then 21-year-old shot 50.8 percent overall and 38.1 percent from distance. He also grabbed five boards a night and added a steal and half a block per game. He was more than capable of holding is own. Heading into the playoffs, Wittman had a secret weapon: a competent two-way small forward who could unlock all new lineups for the Wizards.

Fortunately for Washington, Wittman and Porter himself, the valuable 3-and-D wing from the end of the regular season was no fluke. In the playoffs, Porter established himself as the Wizards’ third-most important player and a vital part of their future. With Pierce gone to Los Angeles  and Jared Dudley in town — presumably to play a good chunk of power forward when he gets healthy — Porter will get real minutes for the first time in his career.

If Porter is unable to match his contributions from last spring, he can still be a highly useful player. His talents at long-distance shooting, offensive rebounding and perimeter defense will undoubtedly be needed by Washington. But he’s also only 22 years old and just got his first real chance to show his stuff.

If anything, Washington should be quietly confident in Porter’s ability to keep getting even better. No one expected Jimmy Butler to turn into a great offensive player — let alone an above-average one. Porter entered the league as a higher-touted prospect at a younger age. Don’t be shocked when he takes another leap eventually.

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