Otto Porter Jr. Can, and Should, Be More Than Just D.C.'s "Third Guy"

Wizards' forward Otto Porter Jr. provides steady emotion and dependable production on both ends of the floor, yet he's still being treated as the "third guy" on a stale Wizards' team in desperate need of a spark. Porter could be that spark, if given the chance.

The ball drops through the net differently for Wizards’ forward Otto Porter Jr. Forget the laws of physics. Porter shoots a Melo ball (named after Carmelo Anthony, of course)--a ball that splashes through the net without hitting iron and falls faster than the universally standard 9.8 meters per second squared. Whenever Porter shoots, passes, or just touches the ball, good things happen. Why, then, do the Wizards continue to perpetuate the narrative that Porter is D.C.’s “third guy”?

For all of Bradley Beal’s strengths and John Wall’s accolades, of which there are many, Porter is the player who regularly provides the Wizards’ volatile roster with steady emotion and efficient production. With consistent growth over Porter’s first five seasons (warranting a $106M max-contract this past offseason), the Wizards can only hope his ascension continues:

Per Game Table
Season Age MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% 2P 2PA 2P% eFG% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2013-14 20 8.6 0.9 2.5 .363 0.1 0.6 .190 0.8 1.9 .414 .385 0.2 0.3 .667 0.6 1.0 1.5 0.3 0.2 0.0 0.4 0.7 2.1
2014-15 21 19.4 2.4 5.3 .450 0.5 1.4 .337 1.9 3.9 .491 .495 0.8 1.1 .734 0.9 2.0 3.0 0.9 0.6 0.4 0.7 1.3 6.0
2015-16 22 30.3 4.5 9.6 .473 1.3 3.6 .367 3.2 6.0 .536 .541 1.3 1.7 .754 1.3 3.9 5.2 1.6 1.4 0.4 0.9 2.2 11.6
2016-17 23 32.6 5.2 10.0 .516 1.9 4.3 .434 3.3 5.8 .576 .608 1.2 1.5 .832 1.5 5.0 6.4 1.5 1.5 0.5 0.6 2.4 13.4
2017-18 24 31.8 5.8 11.5 .502 1.8 4.1 .437 4.0 7.4 .537 .579 1.4 1.7 .828 1.3 5.1 6.4 2.0 1.5 0.5 1.0 1.9 14.8
Career   26.4 4.1 8.4 .487 1.2 3.1 .403 2.9 5.4 .535 .560 1.1 1.4 .789 1.2 3.7 4.9 1.4 1.1 0.4 0.7 1.8 10.5

Beal and Wall undoubtedly provide the Wizards with elite playmaking talent and possess all-star production ceilings, but their lack of urgency, poor body language, and miserable clutch time execution leaves D.C. wanting, and needing, more. (Beal and Wall are shooting a combined 7 for 28 when the Wizards are ahead/trailing by three points or less with 30 seconds remaining, including 0 for 9 from beyond the arc).

Porter is capable of flipping this script on a team plagued by late-game collapses and poor clutch-time decision making; all he needs is the chance from head coach Scott Brooks and his all-star backcourt. (Porter has taken only two shots when the Wizards are ahead/trailing by three points or less with 30 seconds remaining).

During a particularly quiet stretch for Porter in January, Brooks questioned Porter’s desire to make things happen for himself: “We would like to see Otto get more [shots], but Otto needs to help himself get more." Wall added, “We just have to do a better job at getting Otto the ball, but he’s also gotta do a better job himself at just being aggressive when he gets it.” These statements describe a squad that doesn’t know how to use a “third guy”--a max-contract, efficient, and effective “third guy.” This is unfortunate.

D.C.’s “third guy” leads the Wizards in many traditional and advanced statistical categories, from offensive rating and defensive rating to win shares and true shooting percentage. However, Porter's usage rate (an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor) is significantly lower than the Wizards’ all-star guards':

Advanced Table
Player Season PER TS% 3PAr ORB% DRB% TRB% STL% USG% OWS DWS WS VORP
Otto Porter 2017-18 18.3 .601 .355 4.8 18.1 11.4 2.4 18.4 5.0 3.0 8.0 3.4
Bradley Beal 2017-18 18.8 .567 .355 2.3 11.5 6.9 1.6 27.7 4.5 2.4 6.9 2.7
John Wall 2017-18 18.8 .510 .249 1.8 10.0 5.9 2.0 29.1 1.1 1.4 2.4 1.1
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table

Porter will never have the high usage rate that Beal or Wall enjoy, but he inexplicably has a lower usage rate than even fellow starter Markieff Morris (19.4) and sixth man Kelly Oubre Jr. (19.5). This messy Wizards’ offensive identity needs to be cleaned up. Pick-and-rolls with center Marcin Gortat can, and should, continue; drives to the basket from Beal, Wall, and Oubre can, and should, continue; threes off screens for Beal can, and should, continue; and quick 12-foot hitters for Morris can, and should, continue (he shoots .513 from 10-16 feet). But difficult isolation jumpers from the backcourt duo can, and should, end.

Beal and Wall can help increase Porter’s usage rate by eliminating these off-balance jumpers and instead feed Porter off screens, cuts to the basket, and on the block when he’s matched up with smaller defenders (which happens quite often). Brooks can increase Porter’s usage rate by drawing up clutch-time plays for the fifth-year forward, or demanding that Porter get shots at the end of games. Teams know that Wall or Beal will be given the ball, and one of them will dribble out the game or shot clock before finally jacking up an ill-advised jumper. Beal and Wall have had their chances to produce. It’s the “third guy’s” turn. (Beal and Wall are shooting a combined 55 for 175, or .314 FG%, in the final five minutes of games when the Wizards are leading/trailing by five points or less. Porter is 15 for 36, or .417 FG%).

The playoffs are the perfect time to disrupt a stale Wizards’ team. If Brooks’ squad maintains the status quo--isolation jumpers and static offensive sets led solely by Beal and Wall--then it’ll be an early playoff exit. If he commits to increasing Porter’s role, then the Wizards may have a true “Big Three,” not just a “third guy.”

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