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With Beal and Webster out, Wizards look to young wings

Porter getting minutes and chance to make an impression

POSTED: Nov 5, 2014 10:53 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann


Andre Miller calls Otto Porter (above) an "elite shooter."

Even before Bradley Beal broke his left wrist in Washington's third preseason game, the Wizards were short on experienced wings. Paul Pierce had replaced Trevor Ariza at the starting small forward spot, but the Wizards were without Martell Webster, who was recovering from back surgery.

With the additions of DeJuan Blair and Kris Humphries, the Wizards have the frontline covered. They may have the deepest frontline in the league. (Neither of the two was in the rotation in Tuesday's win in New York.) And Andre Miller is a savvy veteran that any team would love to have as a backup point guard.

The two and three spots, though, are another story.

Once Beal was lost for six weeks, the Wizards' depth chart at shooting guard and small forward had just Pierce and the trio of Otto Porter, Glen Rice Jr. and Garrett Temple -- three guys who combined to play less than half the minutes that Webster did last season. Temple was a fill-in for Beal two seasons ago, but in Porter and Rice, the Wizards were now depending on two guys who had basically no NBA experience.

The more I play, the more I get accustomed to everything.

– Washington's Otto Porter

Experience wasn't the only issue. With Ariza gone and both Beal and Webster out, the Wizards were now short on shooting to space the floor for John Wall, Marcin Gortat and Nene. Temple, Porter and Rice shot a combined 15-for-67 (22 percent) from 3-point range last season. Other teams were calling 3-point specialist Ray Allen, but no preseason roster was screaming for him more Washington's.

But Allen is still driving his kids to school instead of running off pin-down screens. And Wizards coach Randy Wittman has had no choice but to throw his young wings -- Porter especially -- into the fire.

So far, so good. The Wizards are 3-1 with Porter averaging 27 minutes per game. When Pierce was ejected at the end of the first half of Saturday's win against Milwaukee, Porter stepped in and scored 21 points (on just 11 shots) in 37 minutes.

It was the kind of game that a young player can build on.

"It meant a lot to go and play like I did, play well, play confident," Porter said Tuesday. "If I continue to play like that, hopefully Coach continues to put me in situations where I can help the team and I can show that I belong out there."

Otto Porter Scores Career High 21

Otto Porter picked up the pace and scored a career-high 21 points against the Bucks on Saturday.

The 21 points that the 21 year old scored didn't necessarily increase the level of trust that his coach has in him.

"I had [trust in Porter] last year, even though he wasn't playing very much," Wittman said. "He's put the work in again this summer and through the exhibition season. So one game doesn't change that with me."

"I already know what he can do," Miller added. "I don't have to see it in a game. I see it in practice."

Porter, remember, was the No. 3 pick in the 2013 Draft, a place normally reserved for those with the potential to be very good players. Porter, long and athletic, could end up playing a lot like Ariza, who was a good fit next to Wall.

Miller calls Porter "an elite shooter," though he's just 2-for-6 from 3-point range so far. But Temple (10-for-20) has improved in that department and the Wizards rank seventh in 3-point percentage. They still don't take enough threes, and they lost to the only good team (the Miami Heat) they've played thus far. But right now, reps are more important than results.

"The more I play," Porter said, "the more I get accustomed to everything."

While he was able to learn the ins and outs of the NBA last year, Porter, like every young player, needs real minutes to build his confidence and his comfort level. The time Porter spends on the floor helps build chemistry with his point guards, too.

Ultimately, when the Wizards are fully healthy, it could be Porter that keeps his current role, while Temple -- now the temporary starter at shooting guard -- falls behind him in the rotation. Miller could see a key role for Porter come March and April.

"He's probably a guy that, as the season goes, we'll play through in the second unit," Miller said. "We just take it one game at a time and see where the confidence of the team is going."

Without two of their top three wings to start the season, it might be difficult for the Wizards to build on their success of last season, when they won 44 games and got to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. But the absence of Beal and Webster may be just what was needed to build a better team long-term.

"It just gives us more depth as we move on," Wittman said, "a lot of different weapons."

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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