On the surface it may not seem like much. The Wizards, currently at 29-15 are probably not too worried about the minutes that the 3rd player off of the bench is receiving. Right now, the team is probably more concerned about this current two game losing streak not snowballing into something bigger while on this west coast road trip. However, if you dig deeper, this is a big deal.
When chatter began that Martell Webster was recovering from his back surgery nicely in December and was getting ready to return to the team, I really hoped that he wouldn't be stealing Otto Porter’s minutes when he came back. Otto had a very strong start to the season coming off the bench and even got a couple of starts when Paul Pierce would sit out games for rest. Otto was developing nicely and then Martell Webster returned; now Otto Porter is tied to the bench. Otto needs all of Martell’s minutes; Here’s why:
The rotation must remain as consistent as possible throughout the season if we want this team to fully gel and be prepared come playoff time. I understand that injuries, shooting slumps, early foul trouble etc. happen and the coach is forced to make in-game adjustments but how can either Martell or Otto get into a groove if one night they are playing one night and the next, they are tied to the bench? Since the start of the New Year, Otto and Martell have basically been alternating games with ‘DNP’. Please tell me how Otto is going to develop if he is playing one game, and then benched the next?
It’s not like Martell Webster has been shooting lights out either. He’s 4-20 from three-point range since his return from injury. Keep in mind that three pointers are his specialty as he was second on the team in three pointers made last season. However he’s been back for a month and his shot hasn't been falling from two or three point range. He’s also specialized in missing big shots when the game is close and has become somewhat of a liability on defense as of late.
We drafted Otto with the third overall pick in 2013 thinking that him, Brad, and John would lead this team for the next ten years or so. Otto spent most of his first season on the bench due to injury and he wasn't quite prepared for the NBA game yet either. This year was different as he was one of the first players off the bench to spell Paul Pierce. Early in the season, you could tell that he was way more confident in his shot, was more prepared for the physical NBA play, and was able to provide a spark off of the bench with his energy on both the offensive and defensive ends.
Otto is averaging 5 points, 3 rebounds, .5 blocks, and .5 steals per game this season. Now these numbers might not blow you away but the intangibles that he brings to the table are invaluable. Deflections on defense, crashing the offensive boards, and diving on the floor for loose balls. There’s not many players on the team that do that. Additionally, he’s one of those guys that doesn't need the ball in his hands and doesn't need to score to have an impact on the game. Just watch him hustle on defense and you’ll see what I mean.
By alternating DNPs with Webster, it’s going to be hard for Otto to improve certain aspects of his game, mainly his shot. He has an OK shot but more playing time will only give him the confidence he needs to take the next step and become a scoring threat that other teams must respect. Otto did not have a game last season where he scored in double figures. He already has eight games this season in double figures. Additionally, his shooting percentage has improved from 36% to 46% from last year to this year and his rebounding is up from 1.5 to 2.9 as well. If his shooting has increased 10% from last season, let him shoot more.
If we want Otto to become our small forward for years to come, why are we benching him in favor of Martell Webster who hasn't shown us much if anything at all since his return from injury? Just so he can get his legs back under him? Why are we messing up the rotation, do the coaches really think Martell brings more to the table? If we want to develop Otto, he needs to be seeing minutes now. He needs to be battle tested especially once the playoffs come around. In the short term this makes sense because let’s be real, Pierce’s minutes aren't going up anytime soon. This includes next season as well. Additionally, what if Kevin Durant decides that he doesn't want to come home to D.C.? Then what? We need to be giving Otto all of the reserve minutes at the 3 spot so he can develop into the player we envisioned him to be.
You know what they say…. "If it ain't broke don’t fix it." Put Otto back in the rotation coach.