Editor's Note: A great, nuanced take on Otto here that has been bumped to the front page.
The more I read discussions about Otto Porter, the more I feel like a lot of people were affected by the Otto Porter NBA draft hype machine -- those folks were subsequently let down by the Summer League -- as opposed to actually evaluating Otto Porter, the second-year player at Georgetown.
As a disclaimer, I was vehemently against drafting Otto leading up to the draft, and then frothed at the mouth when we passed on Nerlens Noel. Not to say that the discussion about Noel vs Otto isn't worth having (in that one thread), but I don't think that's fair nor particularly productive in discussing what we should be expecting from Otto with a bit more optimistic a perspective, which tends to be mixed into the Noel vs Otto debate like it's some sort of fact.
Common phrases describing Otto leading up to the draft were versatile, NBA-ready, great shooter, unathletic and so on. The problem is that these phrases were thrown around so often it makes you wonder if any of these expert writers had arrived at those conclusions themselves or taken the conclusions reached by at least one other writer and assumed it to be the case.
He's not athletic compared to what you'd expect from a top-3 pick, but he's not Greg Ostertag. He has decent straight-line speed, but he doesn't have an explosive first-step. He doesn't have great lateral quickness. He has a decent 36" vertical, but he also has a somewhat mediocre flat-foot 27" vertical. The latter is important because, by comparison, Bradley Beal has a 39/33 split, basically meaning that while their max "ups" only differ by three inches, Beal only loses six inches when he stops on a dime and jumps, while Otto loses a whopping nine inches off an already average jump.
This probably explains DCrez' observation of how Otto didn't seem like he was getting lift on his drives. He has an elite wingspan, which figures favorably on defense in making up for his lateral quickness, provided he improves on positioning.
Otto doesn't have a great shot. One of the more interesting reads is this one where they actually still have their draft report on Otto after his freshman season.
"Poor jump shooter right now, shot just above 20% on 3’s as a Fr. and even though he fared better from short and mid-range with his shot he still needs to basically learn how to shoot…Rarely shoots the same shot and thus has very sporadic results with his jumper."
Here's another one from Grantland that touches on the under-mentioned story:
"But though Porter shot 42 percent from behind the arc in his sophomore season, it was on a very low number of attempts. With a slow release and lots of moving parts in his stroke, Porter isn’t going to be able to step right onto an NBA floor and mimic some of the elite catch-and-shoot wings — think Danny Green — without a significant amount of work and some refinement of his mechanics. 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."
What does this mean? The media parading him as the second coming of Harrison Barnes fooled you. His range is still a work-in-progress. How long does it take someone to solidify a consistent shot? I don't know. But it does mean that we should temper expectations of his jumper and his three-point shooting this upcoming year.
Otto's isn't that great a passer. It took him until his sophomore year to really blossom as a distributor -- he was already pretty good at firing passes to cutters before that, but he really became a facilitator the second year. The implication here is that he's great at running a system, but he's not a natural playmaker like the Walls, Pauls and Kidds of the world. Via Draft Express:
"He makes simple extra passes to open shooters on the perimeter, finds cutters diving to the rim with perfectly timed bounce passes, and moves the ball ahead in transition decisively to get his teammates easy baskets that don't register in the boxscore as assists."
That's fine, he's not a point guard. But it does mean that it could take a while for him to learn and become comfortable with the Wizards' offensive system and where his teammates are going to (or supposed to) be. It also means it could take a while for him to become the passer that people hyped him up to be. Umair's scouting report of Porter leading up to the draft puts it best; he can be a "secondary facilitator in halfcourt sets."
That means he still needs a good point guard, and players who can make the cuts that he needs to make the good pass. That, in turn, means that Sundiata Gaines and the motley Summer League crew did him no favors in easing him in as an non-natural passer.
Otto might be a good/great defender. He has an elite wingspan that a lot of players can only dream of having. He has iffy strength. He lacks lateral quickness. As we've seen from a lot of elite defenses and defenders, though, you don't necessarily have to have world-class athleticism to keep up with the world-class athletes (though it doesn't hurt), so all we can say is that we won't know until we see him try.
Otto might or might not be at the end of his developmental cycle. Lest you forget, he's only (recently) turned 20. The way people talk about him make him sound like a senior, probably because of the world "polished." His shot improved drastically between his freshman and sophomore seasons, making one hope that he can continue to improve on that. He'll have to, given that the college and NBA three-point line are different. He can improve as a passer, which he did through those two years. Some scouting reports mention that he seems to have the shoulder broadness to be able to pick up and comfortably use additional muscle. Not everyone can just beef up and still maintain effectiveness, so this is a nice bit of optimism. He can obviously improve his ball-handling, but whether you can drastically improve it from basically zero to NBA-level during the course of an NBA career is rather debatable.
Is Otto actually the NBA-ready player that the media hyped him up to be?
I think this was just a product of the hype machine, and one wonders if the Wizards front office knew this when they supposedly had Porter as the top guy for their pick on their draft board. I really, really hope they did.
I feel like a lot of people seem to equate "probably never going to be a superstar" with "not going to improve." Otto will probably never become a perennial All-Star, but that doesn't mean what you see is what you get for the next decade. People are right to complain that Otto will probably never be the third superstar a team would need to be a championship contender (though no one ever brings up the defensive elite when they mention the three-superstar system), and he probably won't ever be the topic of discussion over a max deal.
I do, however, think that Otto is much more of a project than most people seem to realize, which isn't going to please the people, like myself, who wanted Noel. Still, people might be better-off tempering expectations of Otto this year and maybe next year. Even expecting a Beal-esque second half might be overestimating the work Otto's shot might need, especially when it comes to the three-point line. That'd be selling the Beal hype machine short, because Beal came in with a shot that got Ray Allen comparisons.
Most importantly, it means people should stop being so pessimistic about Otto after two games in the summer league where they tried to test the ball-handling limits of his versatility. He's got work to do.