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Otto Porter needs to be more assertive to be more consistent

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NBA: Toronto Raptors at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Otto Porter has shouldered greater responsibility for the Wizards’ offense in the absence of John Wall. In the 23 games which Wall has missed after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, Porter has averaged 17.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game on a scorching 52.3 percent field goal percentage.

He’s always been an efficient player, but in these 23 games Otto has proved the ability to take on a larger role without the benefit of the John Wall Effect. If Porter were to play a full season at that level, we’d be talking about him as an All-Star candidate. It begs the question, why isn’t Otto Porter always highly involved in the offense? Why does his involvement seem to fluctuate?

The simplest way to quantify Porter’s role in the offense is usage rate, which is a measure of the percentage of the plays a player uses while they’re on the floor. In the 28 games Porter has a usage rate over 20 percent he is averaging over 19 points per game and the Wizards are 18-10, which would represent a 52-win pace over the course of a season.

Since Wall’s last game on January 25, Porter’s usage rate is 20.4 percent, up nearly four percent from what he averaged prior to Wall’s injury. On the surface that would lead someone to conclude that yes, it’s Wall who has the biggest impact on Porter’s role.

Quietly however, Porter’s usage and field goal attempts have trailed off in recent games. In the first 14 games without Wall, Porter averaged 14.1 shots per game. In the nine games since, that number he’s only averaging 11.1, even though he’s averaging more minutes per game over that stretch.

Porter’s usage rate in the first 14 games without Wall was 22.3 percent and in the past nine games it’s only 17.6 percent. Not surprisingly, Porter and the Wizards have struggled. Porter’s only averaging 14.1 points per game and Washington is 4-5 during that stretch.

Why exactly is this happening? Call me crazy, but since John Wall has not played in any of these games let’s cross him off of the list of people to blame.

It’s fair to ask whether Porter is too selective at times. He is a great shooter by any measure, but part of what makes his percentages so outstanding is that he avoids taking many risky shots. While that’s generally a good thing, at times it’s a necessary evil in this league. There are inevitably going to be possessions when the defense takes away what the offense is drawn up to do and a player has to create something out of nothing.

He’s often labeled a catch-and-shoot player and thought of more as recipient than a creator of scoring opportunities. Over 71 percent of his field goals have been assisted on this season, and over 61 percent of his field goal attempts are considered “open” (4-6 feet from the closest defender) or “wide open” (6+ feet). Only 8.2 percent of his attempts come with a defender within two feet on what are classified as “very tight” defense. The frustrating part of it is that Otto is still shooting 47.6 percent on those attempts versus “very tight” defense.

What’s more is he has shown he’s capable of making something happen when necessary. He is shooting over 44 percent on shots in the final four seconds of the shot clock, which is one of the more efficient rates in the league in what’s usually a disadvantageous position. The problem is, he’s only taken 50 shots in those situations this season, just one more than Markieff Morris and only four more than Kelly Oubre.

That leads you to then ask if Porter is aggressive enough. Scott Brooks has said Porter needs to help himself get more opportunities. We can also go back a few years to when Paul Pierce was a part of the Wizards and had this memorable comment on Otto.

Otto is another one who just doesn’t understand how good he is. He can shoot, he’s a slasher, he can defend, I’m just not sure how badly he wants it every day.

That kid just needs to get mad. If he came to practice ticked off and to the games ticked off, he’d be fine. But it’s hard to get Otto mad. I should punch him one day just to get him riled up.’

If you want more examples of this lack of aggression, look at his performance in Game 6 against the Boston Celtics last season. The Wizards’ most efficient shooter only took five shots in 36 minutes and had zero points. If you think a one game snapshot is unfair, then look at his performance throughout their first round series against the Atlanta Hawks in which he only averaged 6.5 shots per game.

League-wide, opposing teams know that Otto Porter is a great shooter. Scouts have seen what he can do in a larger role and have started to game plan on how to take his strengths away. If he is going to maintain a consistent, high level of involvement in the offense he has to be less deferential.

Here’s one example of how an aggressive Porter changes things for Washington. After grabbing the rebound, he quickly pushes the ball up the floor. After passing the ball ahead to Markieff Morris, Porter gets the pass back and decisively attacks and finishes through contact for the and one opportunity.

This type of play is in his skillset but it’s up to him to use it more frequently. In the last 23 games we’ve seen how impactful he can be. He is too good of a shot maker to not be a nightly fixture in the offense. He still has plenty of room to grow in developing his off-the-dribble game, attacking closeouts better, and getting stronger, but there’s enough of a positive track record to conclude there should be higher expectations on Porter.

Lest we forget, Porter is the Wizards’ highest paid player this season; they need him to impose his will more often. If Porter can flip that switch and be the assertive shot maker we’ve seen at times, the Wizards will reap the benefits, but they need him to make that decision sooner rather than later.