After an underwhelming rookie season, there was nowhere to go but up for Otto Porter. His stellar summer league performance began the process of turning around the perception of him as a player, and the departure of Trevor Ariza along with the absence due to injury of Martell Webster meant that playing time would be there for the taking.
Porter started strong out of the gate, garnering the first double figure scoring game of his career in the Wizards' season opener in Miami with 13 points on just 7 shots. When Paul Pierce hit the eject button in the Wizards home opener against the Milwaukee Bucks, Otto stepped in and stepped up. Porter scored a (still) career high 21 points on 7 of 11 shooting, and added 5 rebounds and 2 steals in his only 30 minute plus game of his career.
Despite his solid play at times, he also had the tendency to seem invisible or forgotten while he was on the court, standing in the corner on offense watching plays unfold. Randy Wittman told reporters "I didn't even know he was out there in the first half," after Otto Porter showed up in the second half of a win over the Magic back in mid-November.
Confidence, aggressiveness and assertiveness are the oft repeated buzzwords used in respect to the Wizards' second year small forward. While this sound like typical Wittman coachspeak, there is no question that Porter can seem passive at times. Unsurprisingly, Porter boasts the second lowest usage rate on the Wizards at 14.7 percent, using just a slightly higher percentage of Wizards possessions than defensive specialist Garrett Temple.
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Perhaps due to Porter's lack of aggressiveness, or maybe due to the return of Bradley Beal and the hot shooting of Rasual Butler, Porter's minutes began to decline in December. After playing 23 minutes per game in November, Porter only saw 14 minutes a game in December. As the schedule got tougher, the less willing Randy Wittman appeared to give Porter opportunities on the court. Of the 13 games Porter has played 10 or less minutes, 11 have come against teams with winning records. While that trend is starting to reverse, it's clear that Porter hasn't fully gained Wittman's confidence.
We are past the point now of asking the question that Ben Standig was posed last year in regard to Otto, "Can he actually play?" Unlike last year, this year we can answer in the affirmative. Otto Porter has shown himself to be a competent NBA basketball player. He fits in well with the starters, as the lineup of Wall/Beal/Porter/Nene/Gortat outscores opponents by 5.6 per 100 possessions, just 2.2 points per 100 possessions worse than when Paul Pierce plays. At worst, he doesn't hurt and at best he can hit open shots and make smart plays without being asked to bear too much of the offensive burden. Defensively, he has his moments.
Various bench lineups don't bode as well, but then again those don't seem to go well for anyone.
With Bradley Beal out and Rasual Butler regressing, Porter should get plenty of opportunities to contribute after the All-Star game. Having shown he can play, Porter has to show he can stand out. While he may never live up to the high position he was taken in the draft, perhaps he can reach the level of the player to which he was so often compared.