March 3rd was a memorable day for Otto Porter for all the wrong reasons. The Washington Wizards trailed the Chicago Bulls 95-92 with just under 15 seconds left on the shot clock and needing a key stop to get the ball back.
That’s when it happened.
This moment has been played over and over again on social media and lowlight reels since, even putting Porter in the 2014-2015 Shaqtin’ A Fool MVP discussion. It’s also produced some fantastic internet creations.
The play, simply put, was a mental meltdown. Porter zoned out on defense and left Tony Snell open to cruise the baseline for an open three. It was a bad basketball play plain and simple, but it’s a mistake that plenty of young player have made, but maybe just a little more subtly. The play has turned into a monster of its own and has wreaked havoc on Porter’s reputation.
Disappointment isn’t new for Porter. He was postered by Dunk City, getting ousted in the first round of the NCAA tournament before being picked 3rd overall in the draft. He played only 37 games his rookie season after sustaining numerous injuries, including injuring his hamstring and hip flexor.
Now, Washington is off to an unexpected 5-0 start to the 2015 playoffs with Porter playing a big part in that.
John Wall and Bradley Beal still lead the Wizards’ attack, but Porter has shown stretches of being the prototypical wing player Washington hoped it got out from Georgetown.
Porter’s role right now is pretty simple. He’s still just 21 and has plenty of upside, but at the moment all he needs to do is defend and score without demanding the ball.
At his best, Porter embodies a traditional wingman, in the mold of a Khris Middleton or Harrison Barnes. The thing that both those players do well is perch themselves in the corners for threes. During the regular season, that wasn’t something Porter thrived at.
Porter’s shot chart was all over the place:
John Wall is one of the top corner three-point passers in the league, but Porter’s skillset hardly complemented him. He shot 16-46 from the corners during the regular season and was all over the place from midrange, shooting 38.4 percent, and making up for 29.1 percent of his shot attempts. Porter is a long, above-average finisher, but he didn’t drive nearly enough during the season.
His shot chart looks a little different in the playoffs right now:
Porter has only attempted four mid-range shots and has already made five corner threes this postseason. He’s shooting at the rim more often and hitting 68.8 percent of his shots there. Porter’s minutes per game have increased from 19.4 to 32.4 in the playoffs, but his usage has actually decreased. He’s managed to pull off the incredible feat of lowering his usage while increasing his production and efficiency.
Porter is averaging 9.6 points and 8 rebounds, shooting 54.3 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from three. Those numbers don’t blow you away, but it’s more than Washington hoped it’d get from him in the playoffs. Beal had a big injury scare after turning his ankle in the fourth quarter, so having Porter in the arsenal is vital for the Wizards. His defensive versatility is essential as well, as long as he’s not making those boneheaded mistakes he’s capable of.
It will take some time for Porter to shed his ‘mistake prone’ label, but the 2015 playoffs have been a nice start.