Is Otto Porter Jrthe best player in the country?
Throughout this pre-NBA draft season, Maryland's Alex Len and Georgetown's Otto Porter have been fixtures on various top-10 lists. That representation remains the same even as the college hoops calendar careens toward the final week of the regular season.
The order in which the draft mavens slot the two locals, that appears to be changing.
There is no question that the Hoyas sophomore forward is the better college player right now. That is hardly a knock on the Terps' Len; Porter is arguably the national player of the year after a string of stat-stuffing performances and leading No. 7 Georgetown to the top of the Big East standings.
Those next-level talent observers have been a touch late to the Porter party, but seemingly everyone in the basketball world RSVP'd their interest after the 6-foot-8 forward dropped 33 points last weekend in Georgetown's victory at Syracuse.
ESPN's draft insider Chad Ford released his latest big board this week with Porter slotted sixth. Len, listed in the top-5 and ahead of Porter all season, is seventh.
Since Ford's report is on ESPN's Insider, I'll refrain from any copying and pasting, but here is how he responded to a question during a chat on Wednesday afternoon about Porter possibly jumping into the top-3.
"He's been so great all year and only recently is he getting the credit he deserves," Ford said of Porter. "To me he's got an upside of Danny Granger or higher. High basketball IQ. Unselfish. Does a little of everything. Cares more about winning than stats. And this year he's really taken the Hoyas on his back.
"His game against Syracuse last week was one of the most impressive performances in college basketball. I really think he has the chance to special. So I wouldn't hesitate to take him in the Top 3. He's No. 6 on our Big Board, but if it was just my own personal board, he'd be higher."
Porter says no decision about his future has been made, nor does he pay attention to the mock draft world.
"Not really. I mean definitely growing up I did want to go to the NBA, that was one of my main goals, it still is," Porter said following practice earlier this week.
Because Len is a legitimate 7-footer with viable offensive skills, he's unlikely to fall much further even though he's turned in several uneven performances over the course of the season.
In the same chat, Ford said of Len, "He's a hard one to project right now. He's had some breakout games against Kentucky and Duke, but mixed in with those games are quite a few duds. Most scouts are willing to give him a pass on his poor games because of the poor guard play at Maryland. They don't make it easy on the big fella. I know some teams consider him a candidate for the No. 1 pick. I think he'll likely go somewhere in the Top 7 or 8 picks."
Make me put down a wager on Len or Porter as a top-5 selection come draft day and I'll go with the old "you can't teach height" axiom and say the Ukrainian big man (I also fear Porter might not blow away the scouts in measurables, but if that's the case, that's on them).
Now, if we truly localize this to the Wizards, Porter is the ideal fit for a team looking for a long-term fit at small forward. While he's not the go-to scorer Washington desires - not yet anyway - Porter's all-court game, high-basketball IQ and unselfish style would fit perfectly with the John Wall-Bradley Beal-Nene trio.
Should the Wizards conjure up the No. 1 overall selection, Kentucky's shot-blocking center Nerlens Noel is the likely call even after the freshman suffered a season-ending knee injury. Emeka Okafor has one-year remaining on his contract beyond this season and neither Nene nor Kevin Seraphin are true rim protectors.
Because of Porter's small forward skill set, he makes more positional sense for the Wizards over Indiana wing guard Victor Oladipo, perhaps the national Player of the Year frontrunner and Ford's No. 5 prrospect. Same goes for another pair of guard Ford ranks first and third, Kansas' Ben McLemore and Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart.
Of course, it would help with the speculation if we knew where the Wizards picked or who was in the draft. Like Porter and Len, we'll just have to wait for the decisions. Unlike Porter, we'll keep paying attention to the mock drafts regardless.