For as long as Otto Porter continues to develop, there will always be two prevailing thoughts surrounding him. There's his supporters, the one's that look past his physical limitations and into the subtleties of his game — his ability to position himself well or make the right rotation — which leads them to believe he can become a key cog as part of a much larger team structure.
And then there's the rebuttal. The fact that he's just 198 pounds and that he's incapable of holding his ground against stronger wing players. He's fundamentally sound, sure, but he's also slow-footed and prone to getting beat off the dribble. Smart teams can negate a lot of what he does defensively by posting him up, or they can simply involve him in an endless amount of high pick and rolls and force him to fight over every bone-crushing screen.
To be clear, neither side is wrong, but game two in Toronto went a long way in erasing some of these doubts.
If you're looking for a reason as to why Porter was a +17 in the plus/minus column on Tuesday night, look no further than what he did as a weak-side defender on Toronto's high pick and rolls. He was consistent in his approach; toeing the line between committing himself to his man in the corner and snuffing out the big man's dive to the rim in the lane as he releases off the screen.
That decision to help off the corner shooter is made a lot easier when the alternative is staying home on a non-threatening shooter like DeMar DeRozan, but these are the type of rotations Porter has made consistently in the past two games. It's not as if his only job on this play is to set up for a charge; he has to anticipate whether the big man will go all the way to the basket or kick it out, and then has to decide whether or not to close out on the shooter he just abandoned or switch onto the big.
Of course, all credit can't be shelled out to one player. Watch how everyone works in unison, with one defensive rotation succeeding the other, almost as if they know where each pass will go.
For my money, you're not finding a better play that encapsulates what Porter brings to the table. For him to not only step up and cover for Nene, who trails the player after hedging out on Lowry, but have the presence of mind to know Johnson will kick it to the corner is outstanding. That deflection spurs everything, and again, it's worth mentioning just how important it was that his teammates rotated on time.
As mentioned in the preview, the Raptors are not a good passing team, and it's apparent after two games that the Wizards plan on exploiting that by staying on top of their rotations. And eventually they'll reset, which brings us to...
Toronto finished fourth in the league this season in isolation frequency and efficiency this season. This is where, I think, Porter has made his money. He's spent the entire series so far guarding Toronto's top isolation scorers, and hasn't been fooled into any of their tricks. Watch the clip above; notice how he doesn't leave his feet on the initial Lou Williams head-fake, then uses his length to lunge out and contest.
He's not falling for any jab steps either, which makes it tough on DeRozan to get into the lane cleanly:
And he's using his length in a lot of ways Trevor Ariza did last season:
DeRozan has played 84 minutes so far, and has attempted just eight free throws while shooting 39-percent from the field. Lowry has the foul trouble excuse, but he's still at just six free throws in 61 minutes while Greivis Vasquez has been a complete liability off the dribble. Only Lou Williams has attempted over 10 so far, and yet he's posted a horrendous 45-percent true-shooting percentage. The work Porter has done on all four has been a major linchpin in the Washington defense.
Offensive rebounding and cutting
Porter finished with a game-high 15 rebounding chances in game two, which is defined by NBA.com as the number of times a player was within 3.5 feet of a rebound. Seven of those came on the offensive glass, where his off-ball movement continued to allow him to sneak past his defender at unsuspecting times. There's the inevitable tradeoff you get with inserting in a player like Porter who isn't apt to spotting-up behind the arc constantly -- it can kill your spacing and throw a lot of your sets out of whack -- but against Toronto, you can live with it. They ball-watch excessively -- especially DeRozan and Williams -- and it's allowed Porter to conjure up second chance points by cutting through the lane.
The Wizards will bear the consequences of this as they continue to feature Porter more prominently, and should they go to the second round and face Atlanta, those possessions will likely swing the other way. A disciplined team can make them pay by clogging the lane and making it tough for him to slip into the lane, so it will be up to him to hone his jump shot.
But there's no denying how fluid the offense looked with him on the floor. Washington ran a lot of side pick and roll action to start the game and couldn't make the Raptors pay for overloading the strong-side of the floor.
But once Porter came in, they couldn't turn their back on him.
He played long, extended minutes on Tuesday, playing the last 17 minutes of the first half and the last 18 minutes of the second, and his effort did not waver. It's not the same as what Trevor Ariza brought to the table a year ago, but Porter's game two performance was the reminder we all needed as to what he can potentially become.