One of the more interesting things that came out when Scott Brooks took over as the Wizards’ head coach was that he was a “big believer“ in Otto Porter. After a season where Porter had ups and downs while adjusting to his new role as a starter, it was encouraging to hear the team’s new coach was still behind him.
That said, it doesn’t look like he’s ready to ink Otto Porter into a starting spot just yet, based on his comments on Monday morning at Wizards Media Day:
Brooks on rotation: "I think minutes is definitely going to be earned." Said Otto Porter has had solid start to career but room to develop.— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) September 26, 2016
Brooks just said the "position is up for grabs." https://t.co/SLCLOjK1Xh— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) September 26, 2016
The Wizards’ small forward position is one of the rare instances where you have two young players (Porter is 23, Oubre is 20) fighting for playing time at the same position. Usually you have a veteran in the mix to keep the youngsters in check if they start to get complacent or get in a funk. Since the Wizards really don’t have anyone who can do that this season, perhaps Brooks feels it’s best to make it feel like an open competition to bring out the best in both players. They both appear to welcome the challenge in a healthy, positive way:
Otto Porter said he knows there will he open competition for the small forward spot. "I dont want anything handed to me,"— Michael Sykes, II (@MikeDSykes) September 26, 2016
Oubre gave a none answer on competing in training camp with Porter. Said the team has one goal.— Michael Sykes, II (@MikeDSykes) September 26, 2016
But here’s the thing: Unless Kelly Oubre took a BIG leap over the summer, Otto Porter is still the more talented of the two players. That said, you could make an argument that perhaps it might make more sense for Kelly Oubre to start games. He played well in limited minutes with the starters last season, and the team was 6-3 with him in the starting lineup. John Wall and Bradley Beal would take pressure off Oubre to produce on the offensive end, other than in catch-and-shoot opportunities (he was 11-21 on threes as a starter last season). On the defensive end, he could help take some pressure off Wall and Beal to take on challenging matchups and allow them to focus more on playing passing lanes, which would lead to more transition opportunities.
On the flip side, you could argue coming off the bench might not be a bad thing for Otto Porter either. It would give him a chance to play a more assertive role with the reserves where he could handle the ball more and not be so confined into a “3 & D” role that doesn’t fully maximize what he brings to the table. Plus, it’s not as if coming off the bench would preclude him from closing out games.
At this point, it’s still probably safer to assume Otto Porter will be the starter, but Brooks’ comments suggest there’s at least a chance that the Wizards might switch things up this season. With time, we’ll see exactly what the plan is, but his comments on Monday shouldn’t sound off alarms about Otto Porter’s performance nor should they signal that Kelly Oubre is ready to make the leap this season. The only thing we know for sure at this point is that regardless of who starts at small forward, Kelly Oubre will definitely be wearing the shorter shorts of the two.