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Otto Porter is fine, even if he isn’t shooting

Porter didn’t need to shoot against the Heat to make an impact.

NBA: Miami Heat at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON—It’s game one of the season and we’re already knee deep in Otto Porter arguments. Either he’s not shooting enough or he’s not getting enough shots. Two sides of the same coin that are essentially saying the same thing—Porter should be more productive offensively.

But he wasn’t last night. He only took three shots in the first half and finished with seven for the entire game. Oh, and by the way, he didn’t have a single three point attempt. That’s an issue, for sure.

So what happened against the Heat? Did Porter pass up shots again? Was he looked off? Was he guarded that well? The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, Scott Brooks said after the game.

“We’ll look at the film—hopefully, he didn’t pass up many. Hopefully, it’s play calling. It’s probably a combination of the two,” he said.

Porter played a great game without shooting

Whether he passed up looks or just didn’t get up shots, Porter was great. He defended, deflected passes, switched when needed and stood up bigs. He was the Wizards’ safety pin when things were falling apart. He only got up seven shots and scored nine points, but he also led both teams with 11 rebounds, registered three steals and three blocks without committing a turnover. That’s doing your part.

The issue—the reason the Wizards lost—was not because Porter didn’t shoot the ball. It was because they couldn’t secure rebounds to close out possessions. They were outrebounded 55 to 40 and allowed 27 second chance points. If they had simply done a better job on the glass, Porter’s lack of shooting wouldn’t be a talking point.

His effort was incredible. Here he is battling, giving a massive second effort on the glass with Hassan Whiteside down low.

And here he is closing out on a jumper late on Rodney McGruer but still registering a block.

Those are winning plays from a winning player. Period.

Basketball isn’t just shooting

We get fixated on offense and shooting without realizing there are other elements to the game far too often. The Wizards could’ve worked to free Porter up a bit more once the defense switched off ball from his screens, but they scored 112 points at home. That should be more than enough to win a game.

Instead of worrying about Porter’s shot output and how it fits into the grand scheme, we should be worried about how the Wizards small ball lineup is going to function this season if it can’t rebound. Part of the issue was that Ian Mahinmi, who started the game, was in foul trouble and the Wizards don’t have many great rebounders on the roster. But that should work itself out once Dwight Howard gets healthy.

As far as Porter goes, here’s how I see it: He’s an extremely good third wheel who is more than capable of being a second, maybe even first, option on a solid team. But he’s fitting into a role here alongside two ball-dominant All-Star players. The shots aren’t always going to be there for him.

There are going to be nights, like Thursday against the Heat, where Porter bears a brunt of the blame for not getting those shots. That’s unfair. It’s the Chris Bosh treatment. He’s the glue that holds things together, but when things fall apart he’s an easy fall guy. It shouldn’t be that way. The Wizards win and lose as a team—the opening night loss isn’t on Porter.

There should never be a night where he doesn’t shoot a three, but things will rarely play out that way this season—if they even happen again. He’ll get his looks and he’ll get his shots. Will he ever be the lead option on this team? No. But they could run more plays for him. Will he be aggressive on those possessions? Only Porter knows the answer to that.

But if he can give the Wizards what he gave them last night along with an increased offensive output? This team is in great shape.