As good as the Wizards' playoff run has been this season, the biggest win for the franchise long-term has been the rapid growth of Otto Porter. Now that he's cemented himself as a key part of the roster and a dependable player in crunch time, it's easy to see why the Wizards floundered so much in the second half of the season when he struggled for playing time. Otto Porter was the missing piece in the Wizards' equation.
When Otto Porter is playing this well (he's averaging 10.5 points, 8 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game in the playoffs and shooting 53.2 percent from the floor) the rest of the roster makes sense. John Wall and Bradley Beal can spend more time guarding less threatening players on defense, and Paul Pierce and Drew Gooden stretch the floor better because Otto Porter provides reliable rebounding and help defense. If it involves anything other than creating offense off the dribble, Otto Porter has shown he can handle it in these playoffs.
However, in Game 2 against the Hawks, the Wizards needed Porter to take on some extra ballhandling duties with John Wall out of commission. The early results from trusting Porter with some more of the offensive load were very encouraging. Let's look at three areas where Porter showed growth as a ballhandler.
1. Taking a shot with confidence on a mismatch
Let's take a look at one play from the second quarter that shows how he's developed, Paul Millsap switched on to Porter on screen from Paul Pierce.
Otto Porter sees Paul Millsap switch onto him after the screen from Pierce, watches Millsap play him cautiously, and calmly rises and fires when he notices he has enough separation. Note there's still 9 seconds left on the shot clock when Porter shoots, so this isn't a bailout shot to avoid a shot clock violation. That was just confident shot from Porter. The shooting form is still a little quirky, and the location isn't ideal, but we're not going to stand in the way of Otto Porter taking any shot if he takes it with that much moxie.
2. Passing off of a screen
Otto Porter had a career-high five assists in Game 2. Most came on simple plays within the flow of the offense, but Porter whipped a nice pass over to Drew Gooden for the bucket when Millsap tried to trap him.
3. Pushing the ball in transition
Watching Porter push the ball up court here may not be the most elegant thing you've ever seen, but it works. Again, the key here is confidence. A month ago, Porter would have just waited for the defense to get back in position so he could pass the ball off to Ramon Sessions. Instead, he forces the issue, even with DeMarre Carroll draped on him, and finds Pierce in transition for a three that made it a two possession game with three minutes left in the game.
Porter's success handling the ball against the Hawks, combined with all the other little things he does makes him a unique threat in today's NBA. He became the third youngest player in NBA history to have a game with 15 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals in a playoff game, only behind Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, according to Basketball-Reference (HT: @SamRinde).
Porter still has a lot he needs to develop if he wants to be a dependable third option handling the ball for the Wizards, but if he can continue to build on his success from Game 2, Porter's ceiling might be higher than we realized.