JTIII: 'Otto Porter is going to be a terrific player'

JTIII: 'Otto Porter is going to be a terrific player'
January 31, 2014, 7:30 pm
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Washington Wizards small forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) passes the ball past Dallas Mavericks shooting guard Vince Carter (25) in the second quarter at Verizon Center.

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Nobody would argue Otto Porter's rookie season with the Wizards has gone swimmingly.

However, anyone suggesting the small forward appears to be drowning needs to come up for air.

At the very least, they need to go back and watch Porter's evolution during his two seasons with Georgetown. Note the growth from team player to Big East Player of the Year while maintaining a cerebral quality throughout.

They need to remember how the No.3 overall pick in last year's draft missed valuable time since joining the Wizards. Limited summer league, no training camp and 18 missed regular season games because of a hip injury.

Alternatively, they could speak with Porter's college coach John Thompson III about his former player, which is what I did on Friday before the Hoyas traveled to New York for a Saturday game with Michigan State.

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"So as a rookie you the miss the whole summer, you miss all of preseason, you miss all of training camp and you become healthy [several games] into the season. Then you're plopped into [the season] and it's just a hard adjustment period," Thompson said to CSN on Friday.

Ailing enough to miss most of the Las Vegas Summer League, Porter then strained his right hip flexor on Sept. 13. Ultimately, that meant no training camp, no preseason, no full contact practices until around one month into the regular season. His first live NBA action on Dec. 6, 19 games into the Wizards' season.

"It's the pros, they're not going to wait for you," the Georgetown coach continued. "Because of the injury, he couldn't get on the court. There were 2-3 months where he couldn't get on the court."

One part of quote stands out: It's the pros; they're not going to wait for you. Rebuilding teams like the Wizards have been in recent seasons or this year's Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic can and typically do give their young players consistent on-court opportunities. They let the rookies play through mistakes.

These Wizards, currently sixth in the Eastern Conference, are all about the playoff push. This is not conjecture. This is what we've been told.

Washington's head coach, the one in the final year of his contract, has the team in position for that elusive postseason appearance. For much of January, Randy Wittman's plan involved a tight 8-9 man rotation. Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster gobbled up the small forward minutes while Porter watches.

The college coach gets the pro coach's decision. Veterans on a potential playoff team can have training camp in season. Rookies are a different species, especially when they're currently shooting less than 30 percent from the field.

There is another factor to consider in the evaluation of Otto Porter. It's one newcomers to the truly low-key Porter might not grasp.

"He is an unselfish player and in many ways [the NBA] is a selfish league," Thompson said. "I don't say that negatively, that's just how it is."

The kid from rural Missouri quickly helped Georgetown with his high IQ game and as the team's leading rebounder despite his rail thin frame. Yet Porter's offense came along at a slower pace or more specifically, any notion of being assertive with ball in hand.

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He's not a chucker. It's doubtful he would ever become one no matter the length of his pro career. Yet Porter learned over that season and as a sophomore how to become an efficient high scorer, not to mention an All-American.

Playing helped. That's not something Porter could do this offseason.

"That's part of the adjustment that he didn't have because he missed summer league," said Thompson, who has spoken with Porter during his rookie season. "If you have summer league you can figure that out."

Doubters will do what they do, but Porter's miniscule production doesn't provide supporters much in the way of a defense. When he's been given minutes, boards and steals show on the stat sheet. The scoring and the shooting, not so much - or from his college coach's perspective, not yet.

"Otto Porter is going to be a terrific player," Thompson stated with confidence. "I said that all last year and I'll stick with that."

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