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Porter's confidence, experience fueling another jump
The fifth-year forward is averaging 18.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game
The 2017-18 NBA season is only two weeks young, but Otto Porter Jr. has been one of the league’s most valuable two-way players so far.
Porter took a noticeable jump in his fourth season in 2016-17, averaging 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, both career highs. He finished fourth in the NBA in 3-point percentage, making 43.4% of his triples. Only 24 years old with obvious growth still ahead, the Wizards re-signed Porter to a multiyear extension over the summer.
Through six games this season, Porter is averaging 18.7 points and 7.5 rebounds in 33.3 minutes per game. After an effective field goal percentage mark of 60.8% last season, good for fifth in the NBA and tops among non-centers, Porter’s shooting has not slowed down in his fifth season. It's a small sample size, but to start the year, he’s shooting 55.7% (44-79) from the field and 51.7% (15-29) from beyond the arc. Porter only has three turnovers in 200 minutes played, the best ratio in the NBA.
Another noticeable jump in Porter’s game has been his defense; he’s tied for first in the NBA with 2.67 steals per game and has made a noticeable jump defensively. His 5.33 steals per turnover ranks best in the NBA. At 6’8” with a 7’0” wingspan, Porter’s length disrupts defenses. When he’s guarding his man around the perimeter, he’s a tough defender to get the ball past. He doesn’t gamble on deflections to get steals as much as he did as a young player, understanding the importance of staying in position.
Porter’s filled in at the four-position with Markieff Morris missing time, and he’s outperformed expectations. With Porter at the four, the Wizards lineup of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Kelly Oubre Jr., Porter, and Marcin Gortat has played the most minutes together in the NBA at 126. According to NBA.com/stats, the unit has a 113.4 Offensive Rating, 89.7 Defensive Rating, and 23.6 Net Rating. That Defensive Rating ranks in the top five among lineups that have played 30 or more minutes together, while the Net Rating is the best among lineups that have played 30 or more minutes together. With Morris expected to return this week, that lineup may go even smaller and have Morris in at the five-position for Gortat, giving the Wizards a lineup with five guys who can switch, guard multiple positions, and shoot from deep.
Porter worked tirelessly over the summer to improve his game, even with his contract situation taking up a lot of his time. Late nights in the gym have paid off, and his confidence has grown every game, which is especially noticeable with his shooting. Porter’s release seems to be quicker this year, which you can see below. In the first highlight in the playoffs against the Celtics, Porter's windup to shoot before he releases appears to take a split second longer than the other clip from this season.
Porter’s also more confident in his shot and doesn’t hesitate when he gets the ball. Considering how great of a shooter Porter was last year, any jump he makes in his fifth year will be welcomed with open arms.
“It surprised me last year how great of a shooter he is, but now it’s not a surprise,” head coach Scott Brooks said after practice on Tuesday.
The Wizards are a team that loves to run on the fast break, and Porter is a big part of that. Last season, he shot 57.5% in transition, making 96-of-167 attempts. He’s made eight of 14 attempts thus far, including a few transition 3-pointers. As you can see against the Warriors, Porter has added the transition triple to his arsenal. With more confidence and a slightly quicker release, Porter’s transition 3-pointers are deadly for opponents.
John Wall made a point at training camp of saying Porter had impressed him the most out of anybody on the roster. Porter is improving and working hard every day, and this version of him still may not be the final product. It’s only been six games and there’s still almost a full season to go, but Porter’s growth and development has given the Wizards an even deeper roster and a legitimate three-headed attack with Wall and Beal.
“He’s definitely confident,” Brooks reiterated about Porter. “He knows that he’s going to be here – he’s a part of our core. He believes in what we’re doing.”