Is it time for the Wizards to trade Otto Porter?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Following the 2012-2013 season, the Washington Wizards found some luck in the NBA Draft Lottery with the team improving their expected draft position and winning the third pick. Things were looking up and suddenly the Wizards were in position to solidify the rebuild and add a foundational piece to the roster.

The team drafted Otto Porter Jr, a silky smooth sophomore swing man and local product from Georgetown. Otto checked a lot of the right boxes as a prospect, he was Big East player of the year, he had great height for his position as a wing, he had a high basketball IQ, and kept a low profile off the court. He was sold as an "NBA ready" player, who could guard perimeter players and down the line serve as a secondary ball-handler in the point-forward mold.

All of this sounded great, but then things got a bit…complicated. The following season ended up becoming one of the most enjoyable and greatest seasons in recent franchise history.

John Wall became an All-Star player in 2013/2014, establishing himself as an elite passer and playing a key role in a hellacious perimeter defending unit along with Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal. With Ariza and Beal setting up in the corners, the Wiz were a joy to watch on both ends. As the season progressed it became clear the exact type of roster that would maximize the abilities of the foundational pieces Wall and Beal.

Well how does Otto come in? That season Porter suffered an injury during summer league that kept him out for the first three onths of the year. It must be said he didn’t look especially great in his summer league cameos. But to be fair, many players don’t play well in that environment and then blossom later.

What was concerning for Porter However was that when he did get into games, he looked completely miscast as an "Ariza-type" wing. He couldn’t hit three pointers at a good clip (19 percent) and he certainly couldn’t guard any starting caliber perimeter players at that point. The Wizards essentially redshirted him that season with the promise of big things to come following an off-season with the team.

The following season the team brought in future Hall Of Famer and :he-who-called-game Jedi Master" Paul Pierce to man the small forward position. Ariza took his talents to the Houston Rockets.

The buzz before the season was that Porter would ascend to his role as foundational piece next to Wall and Beal while allowing Pierce to serve as a mentor and guide. It didn’t exactly work out that way. Even though Porter played in 74 games, he was still in a bit role, getting just spot minutes in many games.

His three-point shooting improved to about average, but still he never showed he could guard perimeter players and we didn’t see the secondary ball handler come through. All of that changed in the playoffs though! Otto completely shut down Toronto All-Star Demar Derozan, he shot 38 percent on a high volume of three-point shots and he made great decisions with the ball in his hands being a general menace in the sweep of the Raptors.

With Pierce moving on following the season we came into this year with high hopes for Otto to finally take his rightful place as foundational piece to complete the rebuild. Unfortunately, it still isn't clear if he's done that yet. We’re 47 games into the current season and if we’re being honest it’s time to have some sincere open dialogue about Otto.

Inheriting starter minutes and responsibilities this season the results have been mixed at best. A lot of what we knew about Otto has been confirmed with his play this season. He’s a high IQ player, unselfish, unassuming on the court and finds himself in good positions often.

Defensively he’s fundamentally sound and can cause a few problems by poking his arms in the passing lanes. Unfortunately, a few of the criticisms of his game have been validated as well. He isn’t a threat shooting from deep (31 percent is very meh), and he doesn’t have the ability to shut down starting level perimeter players (except for Derozan ironically).

If you subscribe to the theory that the future of the Wiz is to maximize Wall, meaning you give him at least two elite shooting wings and at least one high level perimeter defender, then the future with Otto doesn’t become so clear. Unfortunately for the Wizards they don’t have forever to wait and see how it plays out.

Otto is a restricted free agent following next season. History has shown us that teams looking to trade players in their RFA season best do so the summer before, to get good return value and bargain from a position of strength. That means the window to realistically move Otto, if that’s what they want to do, is quickly approaching.

The key questions in this discussion remain:

  1. How good will Otto get in the next season and a half by the time for his new deal?
  2. Will he ever develop the 3 and D skills needed to complement Wall and Beal?
  3. How do you build the rest of the roster to accommodate a wing who doesn’t have 3 and D skills?
  4. Is it worth it for what Otto does give you?

As we debate these things here, management knows the clock is ticking.

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