The Wizards' run to a playoff spot has been great for a number of reasons. We've seen John Wall continue to mature into a star, earning his first All-Star selection this season and winning the Dunk Contest. Trevor Ariza has put up a career year that should help him ensure continued financial stability for his grandchildren. Marcin Gortat has been renewed after a season stuck wandering aimlessly in the desert with the lifeless, pre-Hornacek Suns.
But amidst all the joy, there's been one casualty: Otto Porter's rookie season.
Certainly, there was an expectation that Otto Porter's rookie campaign would not take the world by storm. He entered competition at the Wizards' deepest position at a time when the team couldn't afford to hand out minutes to players who could cost their team dearly while developing. Things only got more complicated when he got injured before training camp. All the time he could have used to adjust to the NBA facing off against teammates in scrimmages and against the competition in preseason evaporated. When he finally returned in early December, he had to hit the ground sprinting in hopes of keeping up.
As we've been able to see now for three months, that hasn't worked out. Porter is shooting 28.6 percent from the field. He's 0-9 on threes. He's averaging less points, rebounds and assists per game and per 36 minutes than Jan Vesely did in either of his first two seasons.
And whenever a rookie starts playing at sub-Vesely levels, you are bound to have people suggest sending that player to the D-League. But while I think the D-League has shown it's value time and time again in helping players find their way in the NBA, I'm not sure a trip to the Wizards D-League affiliate in Iowa would help Otto Porter get on track this season. Consider the following:
The Iowa Energy can't cater to Porter's needs
The D-League is between the haves and have-nots. There are 17 teams in the D-League. 14 have 1-to-1 affiliations with a NBA parent club. The other three are shared by the remaining 17 teams in the NBA. The Wizards currently share the Iowa Energy with the Bulls, Nuggets, Pelicans and Timberwolves. Since they're not in a 1-to-1 affiliation, the Wizards don't have much pull with the Energy to redo their offense and defense to accommodate Porter. Furthermore, let's say Bulls wanted to send Tony Snell to Iowa at the same time the Wizards sent Porter. How would Iowa distribute the playing time between the two players who play similar positions? And let's not forget Iowa has interests of their own as they make a push toward the playoffs. (The Energy currently have the second-best record in the D-League.)
A trip to Iowa doesn't help address Porter's weaknesses
Porter's jump shot is a long-term project. A trip to Iowa might give him regain some short-term confidence in his jumper, but that will fade once he's back to trying to figure out where he fits in Wittman's offensive schemes. Also, dumbells weigh just as much in D.C. as they do in Iowa.
A trip to Iowa works against Porter developing his biggest strength
Coming into the league, Porter was rated highly because of great hoops intelligence and feel for the game. Ben Standig put together a great piece on why the Wizards might not be doing a good job putting him in the right places to use Porter's skills, but a trip to Iowa does nothing to help that. Even if Iowa decided to run the Princeton to let Porter pick up where he left off at Georgetown, it's not going to help him any once he gets back to Washington. A trip to Iowa just forces him to learn another scheme that would take away from time he could be using to understand Randy Wittman's. It's like sending a student who is struggling with French II to Spanish I to get his confidence up.
The reality is that Otto Porter likely won't find his way this year, and that's perfectly okay. The small forward position is in good hands this year. And if Porter's college days are any indication, brighter days are right around the corner. Just compare his freshman stats to his sophomore season at Georgetown:
Sure, hoping for an explosion in his 2nd season like the one he had at Georgetown might be a bit overreaching. But regardless of how he improves next year, it's highly unlikely that a trip to Iowa would make things any better in the short or long term.