Just giving a counterargument to criticism/pessimism of Otto’s current play and what sort of player he’s supposed to become, which I think is important because the majority of complaints are about what he’ll never become and what he was never expected to become (ie. Ariza).
This is where Otto has shined the most, which is important and impressive because most rookies struggle horribly at both man and team defense and was also his single greatest asset entering the league. I’m a firm believer that when people (mistakenly) called him NBA-ready it was because of his defense.
In terms of man defense he’s already looking like one of the better perimeter defenders on our team. Here’s him taking Chauncey:
It’s not the Chauncey of old but Otto never leaves his feet. He’s cognizant of his weapon (his wingspan) and just dares Chauncey to shoot, always keeping a set distance away. Likewise against Terrence Ross:
He’s very consistent this way, in which he understands he doesn’t have the explosiveness to keep up with quicker players, so he keeps a set distance in order to make sure he never gives up the drive while being in position to contest and bother shots. He also rarely bites on fakes, which is nice to see in a rookie. It doesn’t create sexy turnovers, but it makes him a very stable man defender. I remain concerned about his ability to defend the post right now, because I think what stronger wings (Lebron, Melo, etc.) will do is simply push him back, but at the very worst they still have trouble shooting over him, and he’s very, very difficult to fake out. How annoying is he?
He gets crunched by the screen and still gets a hand on the shooter as he starts setting up.
Team defense is unfortunately where he gets "posterized" the most, in many ways, but it’s difficult to tell how much fault lies with him. Everyone’s favorite example of Otto being too unathletic for the NBA was Caldwell-Pope blowing by him for a dunk during the Detroit game:
But on further inspection you can tell that he was "set up" by Singleton, who rotated onto the initial cover far too late, forcing Otto to track the guy all the way to the rim. Then, he’s so aware of where opponents are, that he sprints to the open MCP, but thanks to two crisp passes, MCP recognizes he has a clear rim and can begin driving while Otto’s running the opposite direction. If anything, it impressed me that Otto was able to recognize the incoming drive early enough that he was able to stop and funnel MCP toward the baseline. The downside is that his lack of first step obviously prevented him from stopping MCP entirely, and that’s what most people focused on. Here’s another play where he showed some nice awareness and could have been punished for it:
Follows the guy closer to the rim because he realizes no one else on the team realizes the guy’s there, and then once Nene picks him up he instantly runs to one of the perimeter guys. Could have been punished if the ball went to the perimeter guy and the guy decided to drive or shoot, and it would have looked like Otto’s fault. This is why I think once he gets more confidence and gains the clout to shout out to teammates he could become a defensive quarterback a couple years down the line. His court vision (or as some would call it, basketball IQ) is awesome. And this is his rookie season, in his first fifteen games! Color me excited about his defensive presence.
But his offense is not NBA-ready. At all.
First of all, I want to remind everyone that he came into the league as a jump shooter. Most focus on his offense revolved his ability to hit mid-range shots and three-point shots, and his efficacy as a sophomore was based entirely on his improving his shot from like 20% to 45% and his 3pt shot from like 10% to 40% (albeit on limited sample size). As the Grantland article I referenced in my pre-season Otto post mentions:
That disjointed stroke (one that’s often saved by a great follow-through) is part of the reason why his accuracy drops to just 25.6 percent when he shoots off the bounce, according to Synergy Sports. Porter is just 20 years old, so there is plenty of time for him to improve in this area, but the percentages shouldn’t fool anyone into thinking the young forward is a finished product as a shooter.
We figured he was going to struggle perhaps even more than regular rookie shooters at firing the NBA three, and we knew his offensive production was going to live and die by his shot falling. I refer you to this highlight vid of Otto:
Three things stand out about his offense:
1. He’s a shooter, first and foremost
2. His attempts at the rim are all body-control layups, and his dunks require two hands (aka he doesn’t have the running hops, which we knew from combine stats)
3. He makes good traffic passes in the post
The first is where I direct you to his shot chart:
Probably the first thing that stands out to most people is his terrible rim conversion. I’ll get to that. What stands out to me is that his midrange shot might be falling, which means his shot might actually already working better than I think most scouts expected. Maybe it’s a small sample-size, but this is why I’ve been complaining in various comment sections about how he’s not being used to his strengths (standing at the arc waiting for passes). We’re also seeing his three-point shot not fall, which was somewhat expected, although apparently he’s been swishing threes in shooting practice, so hopefully that’ll eventually start falling, too. As much as people like to harp about his weakness in the paint, I don’t personally have an issue with adding potentially a second good/great jump-shooter, even if he ends up being an outside specialist offensively. It’s why I’ve often compared Otto to like a Bruce Bowen type future if he can add muscle. But Otto can be much more than Bowen, because his bread and butter is that midrange shot. He has the length to shoot over defenders, especially if he plants both feet.
This is very shot that he struggled with in college (shot of the bounce), but golly, look at how his arms are so long it’s hard to contest his shot! I don’t think he’ll ever be a great ball-handler (he’s just too big and the ball bounces too far -- typical big-man dribbling problem) but I think in a year or two he’ll be a much more reliable ball-handler than Ariza ever will be. Amusingly, the biggest issue I had with Otto on that play is that when he ran into the screen under the rim he got overpowered so much he took a half-second to recover and keep running, hah. I also liked his awareness in trying to get open to give Beal a safety valve. I still complain he’s much too far outside of his comfort zone being so far out, but if someone were to argue to me that he doesn’t have the strength to fight for and hold position in his sweet zones, then I’d sigh and accept that.
The second is related to strength in that he’s obviously a position and then body-control finisher. The problem is that when you don’t have the strength to hold ground and then position your body, you’re not going to be able to finish properly. Once he adds to his frame and can stop being flung around like a rag doll I think we’ll see his rim finishing improve. That will, unfortunately, not happen this year. An example:
Eventually he’s going to need to just power that home instead of being knocked off-balance. I have hopes that he will. But that’s going to be biggest question about his development: whether he can add that muscle and remain healthy.
However, look at the play again. Do you see that sexy under-the-leg pass to Nene and the hands to pick up that rough pass from Nene? That’s where we get back to point three. He might even be the third-best passer on our team right now (which is somewhat sad) because he’s got the court vision and the touch to make some of the tough traffic passes. That’s the passing ability he showed in college, those Nene-to-Gortat type passes in the paint between defenders.
I’d complained previously about how the Wizards and the Horns because we don’t have a second ball-handler. But this is the sort of play where Otto should excel, especially once Brad becomes a better ball-handling threat:
Notice how the guy at the high-post is usually a big-man who poses no threat to the defense. This is where we could (perhaps next year) add Otto to the wrinkle in an annoying way. If Otto were to be the high-post guy, he becomes much more dangerous than who’s available for most other teams, because he can make passes to the paint (those traffic passes) and also demands close coverage because of his ability to make that shot. Then you add Wall and Beal running around as drive-or-shoot threats and you get both screeners being scoring threats because of Otto’s passing ability and you instantly get a much more potent offensive play. That’s the sort of ceiling for Otto. You don’t find many "3s" with that much length with that potentially good a shot with that court vision and passing ability. Sure he’ll never be a great slasher, but a slasher is arguably easier to find than someone with these atypical skills. I’m not sure what his trade value is (given how exposed his lack of strength is right now) but I don’t think coaches around the league see him as a bust, especially if they thought entering the draft that he’d need to bulk up (I’d imagine most good GMs figured as much). If anything his better-than-expected shot probably quelled some questions about Otto’s ability to hit those in the NBA.
In any case, with his limited minutes, we get to see comical sequences like this:
But not enough chance of seeing improvement/atonement.
Though to be honest, I wouldn’t be sad if we were to shut him down for the year with "DNP: Bulking up" or something. Gotta get that strength!