To say that Otto Porter had a disastrous rookie season would probably be an understatement. He only played 319 minutes after a hip flexor injury sidelined him through November. By that point, starting small forward Trevor Ariza was in the midst of a career season. Plus, with Martell Webster to come off the bench as a spot-up shooter, there wasn’t really a place for Porter to contribute to the playoff-bound Wizards.
Plus, Porter wasn’t all that effective when he was on the floor anyway. With only a 6.0 PER to go along with a 40.5% true-shooting percentage to show for his time, it’s hard to argue that he deserved more playing time. In fact, the word “bust” had started to creep into the minds of many Wizards’ fans, despite Porter only being 20 years old.
However, let’s fast-forward to July 12, 2014. In the middle of the Wizards’ summer league opener against the Atlanta Hawks, Ariza agreed to a four year, $32 million deal with the Houston Rockets. This, in conjunction with Webster being forced out of action due to back surgery, has placed more than a few eyeballs on the way Porter plays during Summer League. Undoubtedly, the team needed to see some progress as the second-year player suited up.
The Wizards will assuredly be happy to learn that their third overall pick from last year very much looked the part of an NBA rotation player. Porter scored 25 points on 16 shots, grabbed seven rebounds, and added three assists. However, beyond just the statistical significance of his game, Porter showed newfound instincts in the pick-and-roll and the refined passing skills that he learned in college, but hadn’t yet used in the NBA.
Let’s take a look at the Wizards’ second possession of the game. Porter gets a rebound and comes down the floor, where he gets a side pick-and-roll in semi-transition.
Khem Birch comes up for a side pick-and-roll, which Porter accepts and goes towards the baseline. He is patient here, and once Porter feels the double come from Adreian Payne and John Jenkins, he finds the open and rolling Birch at the rim for the easy bucket. The biggest thing to note here is the patience that Porter portrays to bring the rookie Payne closer and closer to him, until the moment when Birch sees the open lane and realizes he can receive the pass.
Here’s another example of Porter’s excellent passing instincts today, this time after coming around a set of screens on the baseline to catch the ball on the wing.
Here, there is a miscommunication defensively between Lamar Patterson and Payne, after Patterson gets caught up in the deluge of screens. Payne goes up to help on the now open Porter, and instead of staying with Birch for a second, Patterson doubles. This leaves Birch wide open, which allows Porter to hit him in about the same spot he did the first time for the easy two.
Now that we’ve seen the passing, let’s get to how Porter did scoring the ball given that he dropped 25 points. Operating mostly out of the midrange, Porter did a lot of damage on pull-up jump shots and attacking the rim. Given the importance of the pick-and-roll in today’s NBA, let’s take another look at Porter’s ability to attack there.
Here, Porter catches the ball on the wing and waits for the screen to come. After the screen comes, Porter attacks the middle of the defense, and forces Walter Tavares to make a decision. By making the big move his feet, he’s able to attack into his body and draw the foul. These instincts in the pick-and-roll are extremely important for Porter to develop. Even though he’ll likely be more of a guy that acts as a spot-up shooter than an offense creator when John Wall is on the floor, being able to act as a secondary ball-handler when Wall is on the bench is key for the Wizards.
For Porter to look this good in the pick-and-roll is a marked difference from his college days. At Georgetown, Porter was responsible for creating offense out of the high-post as a 4 in their Princeton offense. This often involved him hitting backdoor cutters from the wing or moving off ball to get catch-and-lay-ins at the rim. Having said that, the Georgetown offense never had him put the ball on the floor in pick-and-roll situations.
Seeing legitimate developments in Porter’s game, especially today after the Ariza signing, was an excellent sign for the Wizards. Of course, this is still summer league. You can’t take away an immense amount from what he’s doing against a team full of non-rotation NBA players. He still needs to improve as a spot-up shooter, and if the Wizards could put him in more situations like that we might get a better look at his shooting consistency in the catch-and-shoot.
However, the signs are there for Porter to look much better than last season.