Now that the Wizards have disposed of the Hawks and gotten revenge for their heartbreaking elimination in 2015, Washington has to make a quick pivot to prepare for a series against their most bitter rival this season, the Boston Celtics. John Wall and Bradley Beal both had great series against Atlanta, and there’s no reason to believe that will stop against the Celtics. However, the key player in this series is going to be Otto Porter.
The Celtics are one of the few teams in the NBA to have two players capable of guarding John Wall and Bradley Beal. Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley are two of the league’s most tenacious perimeter defenders at the guard position, especially relative to their size. The problem is, it’s hard for that backcourt to generate a lot of offense unless they go small and include Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics’ best offensive player and worst defensive player.
While Smart and Bradley defend Wall and Beal, Brad Stevens is going to have to find a hiding spot for Thomas on defense, and that hiding spot will likely be Porter. He had a decent series against the Hawks, averaging 9.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.3 steals, while shooting 49 percent from the field and 39 percent from three. However, he is going to need more than 6.5 shot attempts per game in this series, especially if Thomas is on him.
Porter is not a great one-on-one player and has not shown much of a post game thus far in his NBA career. However, he does not need either of those things in order to take advantage of Thomas. He’s tall enough that he can just shoot over Thomas and be effective on catch-and-shoot opportunities. He was also one of the league’s best mid-range shooters this season, so he can still exploit the 5’9 Thomas when he has to put the ball on the floor. Don’t be surprised if John Wall runs some pick and rolls with Porter as well in order to get Thomas stuck on an island trying to guard Wall by himself. Either way, Porter will need to prepare for double teams, as Boston will be trying to help Thomas defensively whenever he’s covering the player with the ball.
Washington cannot afford to have Porter disappear and leave Wall and Beal to carry the burden by themselves offensively. They have to make Isaiah Thomas pay on the defensive end in order to counteract his effectiveness on the offensive end. If Porter wants to show he’s more than just a role player and show he’s worth a max deal this summer, he needs to take advantage of what should be a very favorable matchup for him against Boston.