The Washington Wizards selected Otto Porter with the third pick in the 2013 draft. He came into the league with high expectations because of where he was drafted, but he struggled to live up to those expectations early in his career. Injuries limited him to 37 games in his rookie season, and it took him nearly his entire second season to earn consistent playing time under Randy Wittman.
He finally became the full-time starter in his third season, but that coincided with the Wizards taking a step backward after two straight playoff appearances. Fair or not, some of the blame on Washington’s struggles were attributed from the drop off from Trevor Ariza and Paul Pierce to Otto Porter, even though he had steadily improved from his rookie year.
The Wizards have continued to struggle this season, but no one is pinning the blame on Porter, who’s putting together a career year. He’s averaging career-highs in points assists and rebounds per game. He’s also shooting a career-best 44 percent from deep, which has given John Wall another quality shooting option on the perimeter, which has helped the Wizards finally become an above-average offensive unit for the first time since the Wizards drafted John Wall.
Otto has also continued to develop into a better player on the defensive end. He’s top 15 among small forwards in Defensive Real Plus/Minus, and the way that he’s helping on the defensive end is especially helpful playing alongside Wall. He’s the rare perimeter player who can force turnovers at a high rate (he’s averaging 1.5 steals per game) and crash the boards (he’s averaging over 5 defensive rebounds per game) both of which lead to more fast break opportunities.
Porter's success is a great thing for the Wizards, and when you add in Bradley Beal’s emergence, and the continued excellence of John Wall and Marcin Gortat, it has made them into one of the league’s strongest lineups. Washington has a Net Rating of +9.2 when the Wall, Beal, Porter, and Gortat are on the floor together. The only four-man units that have played at least 500 minutes together and are posting better Net Ratings play for the Clippers or Warriors.
While there are still understandable concerns with the bench, the Wizards’ starting lineup has a bright future. They’ve got four lottery picks in their starting lineup who are all locked up for at least the next three years, assuming Porter signs a long-term deal this summer.
Though they may not have much cap space to make a big splash in free agency, the Wizards still have some ways that they can tinker with the roster to take better advantage of what Porter brings to the table. Scott Brooks and lead assistant coach Tony Brown are both known for developing young talent, which will not only help Porter’s growth, but the players they put around the rest of the core.
We’ve already seen how they’ve started to better utilize Kelly Oubre’s freak athleticism to go small at certain points of the game. With time, they could help develop Tomas Satoransky into another playmaker than Porter can work well alongside, and help unleash Sheldon McClellan’s potential as someone who can add more length at the 2 spot when the Wizards go small off the bench. Plus, the Wizards still have their 2017 first round pick which they can use to add another player that the coaching staff can develop as a piece alongside Porter.
The good news is, however they decide to tinker things in the coming months and years, Otto Porter’s development gives the team a lot more flexibility in how they move forward. His quick progression from being one of the team’s biggest question marks to one of the team’s most important players offers hope for a brighter future.