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An ode to Otto Porter’s continued growth

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

On Sunday, Otto Porter celebrated his 25th birthday with a whopping 135 retweets from the NBA’s official Twitter account. Porter will never see it because he doesn’t have a Twitter, he’s probably somewhere in the shadows posting birthday updates to his private Instagram account of 69,000 followers - which is about 410,000 less than Kelly Oubre’s following.

It’s no surprise that Porter hasn’t gotten much fanfare on his birthday. He’s one of the few high-caliber NBA players that’s managed to stay out of the public eye while producing at an elite-level in a number of categories. Everything about Porter is low-key - from his lack of a social media presence to his efficient numbers on the court.

But for a fanbase starved of consistency and substantive internal player development, Wizards fans continue to take Porter for granted and have turned him into the most divisive player on the roster, though he possesses no alienating qualities (outside of his contract which the market determined he was worth).

The fans have naturally developed a negative bias when it comes to all-things Wizards. The glass half empty perspective didn’t come out of nowhere - it came from not having a 50-win team since the seventies, a star player who tarnished his career by bringing guns into the locker room and a team president who, for all the fans know, is on a lifetime contract despite making countless errors that have long warranted his dismissal.

Porter has unfortunately - and undeservingly - fallen victim to that negative bias even as he remains one of the only encouraging parts of the team’s otherwise blah future.

This past season, the Wizards had a window of opportunity to climb atop the East rankings, but spluttered as teams deemed once in the same tier - most notably the Toronto Raptors - took advantage of Cleveland’s dysfunction during the regular season.

There are far too many factors to list why the Wizards were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round in a relatively noncompetitive six-game series. There are fewer reasons to list as to how the Wizards made it that far - and Porter’s constantly overlooked growth is perhaps the first that should be mentioned.

Just four years ago, Porter was stuck in Randy Wittman’s doghouse for merely being an inexperienced pro basketball player. The team showed zero confidence in him as he sat on the bench and watched veterans with one foot out of the league play ahead of him. Other young players have broken in similar situations, but Porter used the time to learn under Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster, and members of the AARP Unit.

The following year, Porter got playing time more often, and when the Wizards went small in the playoffs, he delivered in their sweep of the Raptors and solidified his place in the team’s future plans. He’s continued to improve year-after-year, this season, he maintained his stellar efficiency while taking more shots than ever before and averaging a career-high in assists per game.

If the rest of the roster followed Porter’s trend, Washington would’ve avoided being one of the most disappointing teams last season. Yet, all that most analysts could focus on was how Porter was the team’s highest-paid player, and all his coaches and teammates could focus on was how he didn’t demand the ball enough.

He’s not perfect - and that much is true for John Wall, Bradley Beal, Oubre and the rest of the roster. So instead of focusing on his flaws, why not try to highlight the whole lot of good Porter brings to the team that’s operating with a scarce amount of positivity?

The Wizards’ future is uncertain and there’s not much to be cheery about, but the team has something they can hang their hat on: Porter will continue to get better.

Happy birthday, Otto.