A look back at Otto Porter Jr.'s 2018-19 season
Porter averaged 17.5pts and 5.5reb in his 15 games with the Bulls
Otto Porter Jr. played almost six years in Washington. But he was no wizard.
Coming from rural southeastern Missouri and the bustling tri-cities of Morley, Vanduser and Haywood City, combined population of about 1,200, Porter hardly emerged from royalty. Though in coming to the Bulls, it seemed like he morphed into Otto the Great.
"What I've been in however many games since the trade, what I've done in that stretch, that small amount of time, that's what I'll continue to do next season," Porter said in an interview at the end of the regular season. "Being a leader, that's pretty much it, and whatever I have to do. It is going to depend on a given night whether it's scoring or passing the ball, defending; it's going to vary every night.
"This team is going to be different next year," Porter promised. "We have a lot of different pieces coming. So it'll be totally different and I'll have a better understanding once we're all together for training camp and practicing. I look forward to starting, getting an opportunity to play with everyone who will be on the team and go from there and learn the system and what Jim (Boylen, coach) wants."
Porter was in some respects the controversial addition in the big midseason trade of Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker. Porter became the Bulls highest paid player despite a career scoring average of about 11 points as a tertiary option for the underachieving Washington Wizards. The addition of his contract likely limits the Bulls' ability to compete in the summer free agent marketplace for a maximum salaried free agent. Bulls Vice-President of Basketball Operations John Paxson likened Porter to an advanced free agent acquisition.
And then the versatile 6-8 forward, though in just 15 games before being sidelined the last 11 with a shoulder injury, played the best in his NBA career.
"I look forward to starting, getting an opportunity to play with everyone who will be on the team and go from there." - Otto Porter Jr.
In those 15 games with the Bulls in which the Bulls were 7-8—not great, but about double the winning percentage without him—Porter established career highs in scoring average, three-point shooting, assists, minutes played per game and shots made and attempted. Porter averaged 17.5 points per game. In almost six seasons with the Wizards, he scored more than 30 points twice. He did it with the Bulls twice in his first eight games, both also with double figures in rebounds. In his first five games with the Bulls, he averaged 21.4 points and shot 56 percent on threes. His veteran poise and aplomb despite being just 25 years old seemed to liberate the younger Bulls, especially Lauri Markkanen, to play with more confidence and purpose.
Though somewhat taciturn with media, Porter proved expressive on the court, directing teammates in coverages and actively participating in huddles and locker room sessions. His savvy seemed to belie his public diffidence. If he's self-effacing off the court, you might not want to get in his face on the court.
It's a departure from the demure reputation Porter carried in Washington, where he deferred to the strategies employed for John Wall and Bradley Beal. Though it perhaps also distinguished his bona fides as a team first player, someone willing to do what's best for the team no matter the lack of personal aggrandizement.
"Just a winning mentality; that's where we have to change the culture of the organization." - Otto Porter Jr.
"I'm not worried about awards and All-Star and things like that," Porter said. "I'm just worried about getting this team back to where it needs to be, and that's in the playoffs and contending for a championship."
It's what all players say. But given Porter's history and track record, it carries a louder ring of credibility.
Though the Bulls expect personnel additions from the draft, trades and/or free agency, Porter will come into training camp next fall as a leader given his experience and especially the team's change in demeanor and professionalism upon his arrival. He's a multi-talented player with excellent shooting range and an ability to make plays off the dribble and in pick and roll. With the team talking about emphasizing multiple players in playmaking roles, Porter is a potential fulcrum that could tip the team toward success or, at least, substantial improvement.
"Just a winning mentality; that's where we have to change the culture of the organization," Porter said. "Work hard this summer to better prepare for next year and come into the season with the positive mindset that hard work pays off. I'll continue to work on leading better and elevating my game.
"I always look to expand my game every year," Porter said, "whether that's getting better defensively or as a leader. I think that (losing) habit was broken after the trade. What I told the guys was when you start winning it starts to become fun; once you get that taste you will always want it.
"When we had that stretch of games (6-2 in Porter's first eight games), we saw what it takes," said Porter. "It's going to be fun. I can't wait to get Wendell (Carter Jr.) back for sure. I can't wait for everybody to get back and be healthy because it's going to be very important to our development this summer and to what we want to accomplish next year. I went in an open book. And in doing that we were able to manifest something good, something positive, uplifting. So hopefully it will encourage our fans and organization and our team.'
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