After a disappointing 2015-2016 campaign, the Washington Wizards came into this season hoping to right the ship with a new coach and clear playoff aspirations. Of course, they had a really rough start to the season (starting 2-8 and culminating with a loss to the lowly Sixers), but now they are finally shaping into form. They have won 7 of their last 10 games including 6 straight at home. While John Wall and Bradley Beal have and will get much of the credit for the team’s success, the unsung X factor this season has been none other than Otto Porter Jr.
Otto had a mildly disappoint first three seasons in the league. After being picked 3rd in the 2013 NBA Draft and heralded as an NBA ready 3 and D specialist, he only started 13 games in his first two seasons and was openly harassed by veteran Paul Pierce for his lack of aggressiveness. After Pierce left Washington, Otto finally became the starter at small forward last season. He was average at best overall, scoring less than 12 points per game and only shooting 36% from the three in a forgettable season. This is not exactly what the Wizards were hoping for from their supposed 3 and D specialist. Otto was so underwhelming that the Wizards front office decided against extending his contract and are letting him play out the final year of his rookie deal that expires in 2017. Needless to say, there were plenty of skeptics around the nation’s capital who assumed Otto was another failed Ernie Grunfeld draft pick.
This season, Otto vowed to quite literally make the Wizards pay and has finally made the metaphorical leap this year. He has career highs in almost every statistical category and has offset the weak bench of the Wizards by playing 34 minutes a night. Otto is quietly averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds per game, but it’s his efficiency that is really off the charts. Otto is shooting 55% from the field, which ranks 12th best in the NBA. That is even more impressive when you consider that the 11 players above him are all centers who typically only shoot from inside the paint. Otto is also shooting 44% from behind the arc, which is 11th best in the NBA. For the advance stats enthusiasts, this puts Otto at 3rd in the league in offensive rating and 4th in true shooting percentage (only trailing Rudy Gobert, DeAndre Jordan, and some guy named Kevin Durant).
Monday night against Milwaukee was a microcosm of everything Otto brings to the Wizards this year. He scored 32 points on just 18 shots, made five 3s, shot 72% from the floor, grabbed 13 rebounds, defended the Greek Freak, and hit the dagger 3 to seal the win for the Wizards. Otto also showed some rarely seen emotion after hitting his big shot by yelling at the Verizon Center crowd. Maybe Paul Pierce’s “pep talks” finally made an impression.
The Wizards front office has to love the progression Otto has made this season, but of course now they have a big decision to make. Talk around the league is that Otto will be offered a max contract this summer. The good news: He is a restricted free agent, so the Wizards will have the option to match the deal. The bad news: Otto will become the third Wizard with a max deal (joining Wall and Beal). The combination of those three big contracts and the mismanagement of cap space to sign some pretty questionable free agents (looking at you Jason Smith, Marcus Thornton, and Ian Mahinmi) leaves Washington with little room for growth.
Barring a trade or major injury, the Wizards will almost assuredly keep Otto after this season. A 23 year old who can shoot 3s and defend multiple positions is super valuable in today’s NBA. Not to mention, Otto is still clearly growing as a player and will only get better. Assuming he stays, the Wizards have to hope that this young DC Big 3 can carry the team back to the playoffs and eventually compete with the Cavs in the East. Otto has proven he deserves to be the third option on a contender. Now it’s time for the Wizards to actually contend.
Photo Credit: CBS Washington
Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference