By: Patrick Waring
The Washington Wizards opened up their preseason schedule last night by hosting the Philadelphia 76ers. The Wizards are preparing to start the 2015-2016 season and hope to not only make the playoffs for the third consecutive season, but advance further and contend for the Eastern Conference Championship. Last season ended in the second round of the playoffs with a 4-2 series defeat to the Atlanta Hawks. The Wizards showed early promise by sweeping the Toronto Raptors in the opening round and by beginning the series with the Hawks up 1-0. Most fans know the ending. Point guard John Wall would miss the next three games with a broken left hand and the Wizards never really seemed able to recover.
A lot of success came from lineup changes and a shift to small ball. Otto Porter stepped up in the playoffs with a larger role, and showed many why the Wizards drafted him with the third overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft. Coming into his third NBA season, and with the departure of Paul Pierce, Porter should be set to become a starter at small forward and play major minutes with point guard John Wall and shooting guard Bradley Beal. Being drafted as high as Porter was had high expectations. Porter’s selection by the Wizards didn’t have an immediate impact on the franchise, but there have been signs, and the best is yet to come from the forward out of Georgetown University.
Porter’s rookie season started off slow and never really had a chance to get going. Porter suffered a hamstring injury during summer league and later was out of action while dealing with a hip flexor. Porter would not make his NBA debut until December 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks. In 37 games, he would only average 8.6 minutes of court time, 2.1 points and 1.5 rebounds. With not having a training camp to get adjusted, Porter mostly looked lost on the court. There was a huge difference in the game speed from his days at Georgetown. And the strong play of forward Trevor Ariza (14.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists) did not leave any opportunities for more minutes to be distributed.
Second Year – Regular Season Otto
Porter’s second season was a mixed bag. He had a great summer league and was on track to be able to attend a full training camp. Pierce was in town as the veteran and new small forward. Porter would be able to play more, and more importantly, learn from Pierce. Not only being a professional and a champion, Pierce shared the same position with Porter. There were teachable moments in practice and during games. Porter appeared in 74 games last season and averaged 19.4 minutes per game. He would go on to average 6.0 points and 3.0 rebounds. While mixing up the lineup due to production and trying to find the right fit, head coach Randy Wittman would juggle Porter’s playing time. Some games would offer very little minutes, while others would not involve Porter at all. He was still trying to adjust and get stronger for the NBA style of play.
When given the chance to start, Porter did show promise. In 13 starts, he would average 10.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. Porter would look more comfortable on the court when surrounded by starters. He was able to start showing some of the skills that lead to success at Georgetown.
Second Year – Playoff Otto
Playoff time would be much different for Otto Porter. He came off the bench for every game, but Wittman allowed him the chance to play and prove that he was ready. Porter averaged 33.1 minutes during the playoffs. In 10 total games against the Raptors and Hawks, he averaged 10 points, 8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Porter was more aggressive and excelled on defense as well. At 6-foot-8, Porter has the length to disrupt passes and shots. Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan would normally start hot, but Porter would enter the game and cause him to struggle to score and get off good looks at the basket. Flashes were shown in the regular season, but his commitment to rebounding and hustle plays really stood out in the playoffs. There were some instances of rushed shots, but he was taking advantage of looks at the basket instead of being too passive. This was something that Pierce and Wittman were urging him to do.
Third Year Prediction
With being a starter, you should expect more of the “Playoff Otto”, if not better. A more experienced and stronger player, as well as time spent with Beal and Wall on the court, will pay dividends for Wittman and the Wizards. Expect to see Wall finding Porter slashing to the basket or spotting up for a three pointer. He can handle the ball and may be asked to help bring it up the court at times. Porter has a high motor and will do the dirty work if plays are not drawn up for him. A guy that has always been described as able to do a little bit of everything, should do that in Washington this season. The best is yet to come, and if his first preseason game this year against the 76ers (22 points, five rebounds, two assists) is a preview, Wizards’ fans will be pleased.
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(Above Photo Courtesy Of Alex Brandon / Associated Press)